WELL BEFORE “crossing over” became de rigueur for classical artists who wanted to tap into the pop market, there was Andre Previn: symphony orchestra leader and M-G-M arranger; classical and jazz pianist; conductor for Vladimir Ashkenazy, Ravi Shankar, and Julie London. To Previn, great music was great music. In 1945, at age sixteen, he made his first album, Andre Previn Plays Ellington. A few years later he established himself as an uncommonly sensitive accompanist for pop singers, including Doris Day and Diahann Carroll.

Dinah Shore probably never sounded better than she does on
Dinah Sings, Previn Plays, recorded in Hollywood in 1959 and 1960. At that time, the homey, kiss-blowing Southern star was TV’s favorite hostess, thanks to her Sunday-night Dinah Shore Chevy Show. But her singing, with its no-frills, lullaby quality and tinge of the blues, was easy to take for granted. For twenty years it had been a bedrock of radio and records; along the way it became one more component of her unflappable poise and charm.

By 1959, when she signed with Capitol, the hits had ceased; and Shore, then 42, got down to some serious music-making with the likes of Red Norvo and Nelson Riddle. The Previn album, aptly subtitled “songs in a midnight mood,” teamed her with only the pianist and his frequent sidemen, bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Frank Capp. They back her with their lightest touch, and Shore responds with the most intimate, nuanced singing of her career. Her teasing version of
It Had to Be You features an obscure alternate verse and some Erroll Garner-ish licks from Previn. On The Man I Love, his gently funky playing brings out Shore’s bluesy side. My Funny Valentine finds her voice floating effortlessly over Previn’s countermelody. In the original liner notes, she and Previn rave about each other; that affection is clear on every track.