The Grammy nominee scores with new takes on her dad's timeless compositions
This year's double-Grammy nominee Monica Mancini has carved out an impressive career as a concert performer, appearing with major orchestras worldwide.
Monica Mancini, with opening guest Don Tiki and the Honolulu Symphony Pops with conductor Matt Catingub
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $30 to $75
The daughter of famed film composer Henry Mancini (whose memorable "Pink Panther" theme will be reprised in a movie this fall, with Steve Martin playing the hapless Inspector Clouseau) and studio singer Ginny O'Conner Mancini, Monica began singing early as a member of her father's chorus, which led to a successful career in the Los Angeles recording studios, appearing on countless film scores and recordings with artists like Placido Domingo, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.
Last year was quite a year for the Mancinis. They celebrated the release of the U.S. Postal Service Henry Mancini stamp, she kicked off a 60-city tour, followed by sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall and Tanglewood with John Williams and the Boston Pops.
In June, Monica was invited to perform at the White House for an upcoming PBS special.
Her current Concord Records release "Ultimate Mancini" finds Monica and some very special guests paying tribute to her father, including Stevie Wonder, Take 6 and Kenny Rankin.
The Star-Bulletin caught up with Mancini by phone from her home in California's San Fernando Valley.
Question: Your latest album is "Ultimate Mancini," which you toured for extensively last year. How would you describe the CD?
Answer: It's the quintessential Mancini collection, but we didn't just do a compilation of old songs. It's all brand-new recordings. My husband, who is my musical director and drummer, and I decided to take as many arrangements as we could and bring in some current artists to re-record them. What it shows is how timeless Dad's music and arranging really is. It's given the music a new life. It's a superb record.
Q: You sing on a lot of the album's songs. Did you know which songs you wanted to record?
A: There are certain favorites that you know people will want to hear, like "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses." A couple of songs are my personal favorites but may not be well-known, but I love to sing "Two for the Road" and "Moment to Moment." I sing a lot of Dad's music anyway, so I feel very at home with it.
Q: The challenge in assembling this collection must have been huge.
A: We made a list and went song by song, but it's not as monumental as you might think. A lot of things he recorded were instrumentals. Some are not singer-worthy. I had no problem selecting what I wanted on there, because there are certain ones that stand out for me. It's a very personal selection, but everybody responds to it.
I chose "Two for the Road" because it's a family favorite and a favorite of Dad's peers. It strikes a chord with musicians. It became my parents' song.
"Days Of Wine And Roses" has been one of my favorites. I love singing it, and I love being able to do something different with it. It's a really intense, poignant song with a gorgeous lyric. It's wonderful to sing. The first time that ("Wine") producer Blake Edwards and the movie's cast, including Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, heard the song when Dad and Johnny Mercer played it for them, they wept.
Q: Your father used to work at home. Do you recall moments when he was writing any of his classic pieces?
A: What I remember is that he was always writing. When we would go into his studio to bug him or just say hi, he would always be writing something. What he was writing at the time, we had no idea. He didn't say, "Here is what I'm doing," or play it. I was too busy listening to the Beatles to pay attention.
The one thing that I remember is when he wrote the theme to "The Pink Panther." The song just exploded into a cultural phenomenon. You can't disconnect the image (of the Pink Panther) from the song.
Q: What don't people know about Henry Mancini?
A: He was funny and goofy, but also very shy. People who knew him will tell you he was one of the nicest (people) you ever met. He was a wonderful, caring human being.
Q: Did you ever ask him for help musically?
A: No. He certainly opened some doors for me, but I was in a whole different world than him, working in the studios in L.A. The name opened some doors. He wasn't big on helping that way, but, funny enough, a lot of young people wrote to him and included their cassette tapes, and he always listened and responded and gave advice. But we never had that relationship.
I did most of his demos when he needed to write a song for a film or whatever and he needed a vocal for the producer or director. I would do that."
Q: Did being the daughter of such a famous father help or hinder your career?
A: It was always an asset. Maybe there were some people in the studio world who wouldn't hire me because they figured, what did I know about music, other than being Hank's daughter. I never felt it was a liability.
Q: What will your Honolulu concert be like?
A: The show is called "Mancini at the Movies." It's a lot of Dad's stuff. I recorded a CD a while ago of all film music called "Cinema Paradiso," so I put a few songs from that CD in there. It's all my favorite movie music. It's a multimedia show. We've put a lot of film clips for the movies that I'm singing about, plus a family montage.
Q: How do you relax or have fun in your down time?
A: I have a twin sister who lives very close by, and we talk like 12 times a day. She's my best friend, so we do things, from going out for coffee to shopping, go see a film, a whole bunch of nothing. I actually do nothing better than anyone I know, and I do it without guilt. I could teach courses on it.
Q: When you were dating as a teen, did you and your twin ever try to fool a boy by switching?
A: Oh, no, never. See, we went to Catholic girls' school. You just don't do that with nuns.