Since Lexus Jazz at the Bowl is a jazz series based in Hollywood, a program devoted to three “Hollywood Jazz Legends” made sense — and it was especially gratifying that two of the three honorees are still around to enjoy the show. Thus, the last Hollywood Bowl jazz concert of the summer found the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, singer-pianist Shirley Horn and a parade of guests feting the music of Quincy Jones, Johnny Mandel and the late Henry Mancini — with Jones and Mandel on hand to take bows near the close. And for the most part, the concept worked, though not all of the parts were a perfect fit.
There were all kinds of authentic touches that could have only been done in the film capital — like bringing in Plas Johnson to re-create his unforgettably sly tenor sax solo for Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme,” or irrepressible jokester Jack Sheldon getting the entire Bowl swooning by reprising his smooth trumpet solo for Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
Yet of the three composers of choice, Quincy Jones’ music went over the best in this context, with tunes like “Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker,” “Nasty Magnus,” and, to some extent, the tongue-in-cheek “Soul Bossa Nova” best suiting the CHJO roaring, Basie-rooted strengths. Indeed, the swaggering chart of Jones’ “In the Heat of the Night” brought out a bluesy strain in Horn, inspiring her most stirring performance of the evening.
Mancini’s music, for the most part, falls more comfortably into easy-listening pop circles than jazz, though Sheldon and Johnson had some lively, boppish things to say about his “Peter Gunn” theme near the end. Mandel’s jazz impulses found their best vehicle in a spiffy Basie-like tune from the ’50s, “Straight Life,” and Jeff Clayton’s alto sax wailed soulfully on the exquisite “Emily.”
Though one would think that the laconic Horn style would be better suited for an intimate club than this vast amphitheatre, she knew exactly how to hold the crowd’s attention in a short set with her trio and the CHJO, timing those vast spaces between the notes to the proper millisecond.
The daughters of Jones and Mancini added some dynastic flavor: Jolie Jones looked and sounded totally at home in front of the CHJO in “Eyes of Love”; and the dulcet-voiced Monica Mancini offered straight-forward renditions of “Anywhere the Heart Goes” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”