Neil Hefti & His Orchestra’s Forever in June

4th September 2015

Title: Forever in June

Label: Jasmine

During the 1950s, Hefti had a deserved reputation as one of the best jazz arrangers in the business as well as a successful composer. He could play a bit too, blowing trumpet for the likes of Charlie Barnet, Horace Heidt and Woody Herman. It was with the latter that Hefti’s arrangement skills were honed. Later, he would add charts to orchestras controlled by Harry James, Count Basie and Charlie Ventura and then a range of successful films and TV shows. For example, he was that chap who penned the theme tunes to the Batman TV show and The Odd Couple film/TV themes.

What we have here is a 2CD package that packs in four complete LPs: Hefti, Hot And Hearty (1955), The Band With Young Ideas (1954), Hollywood Songbook Vol 1 (1958) and Jazz Pops (1962).

Before those TV theme tunes, Hefti, Hot And Hearty saw the man as a swinging big-band music guy with plenty of excellent original compositions, including Little Pony and Plymouth Rock which were composed for Basie while Lucky Duck has a few flavours the would presage his later works. The straight jazz direction of the songs will be of interest to any fan of the genre.

The Band With Young Ideas contains several highlights including Coral Reef, his first hit instrumental with his own band, featuring the baritone saxophone with the trombones. That trumpet work in the second chorus is by Hefti himself plus Sure Thing, composed for Basie.

Hollywood Songbook Vol 1 takes 12 tracks from 1934-1945, pulled from popular movies. All of the songs featured here won Academy Awards. Tracks include Lullaby of Broadway and White Christmas.

Jazz Pops was Hefti’s second cut for Reprise mixing his own high-profile tunes and a few well-known selections. There’s plenty of well known names in the band pit such as Shelly Mann on drums, Plas Johnson on flute and Al McKibbon on bass as the guys provide a catchy and addictive suite of compositions. Highlights include laid back versions of Exodus and Like Young while Hefti shows his interpretive skills by blending Basie’s One O’clock Jump with Benny Goodman’s follow-up Two O’clock Jump.

A packed compilation of an unfairly ignored musician and arranger that highlights his (today) lesser known works.