Monica Mancini – I’ve Loved These Days

Monica Mancini
I’ve Loved These Days
Concord Jazz – 2010

More than a decade after launching her solo career, vocalist Monica Mancini is finally getting to do the album she’s always wanted to. “This is my music,” says Monica of I’ve Loved These Days, a gorgeously crafted collection of songs by artists who helped shape the soundtrack of her formative years, including Lennon & McCartney, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson and Janis Ian. “This is the music that resonates more than anything else for me,” she explains. “I love singing standards, and there is something that I respond to with all those wonderful old songs, but these songs are every bit as vital to me. These are my standards.”

Intriguingly, I’ve Loved These Songs goes a step beyond mere reverence by actually incorporating several of Monica’s musical heroes. Browne provides guitar and vocal accompaniment on “These Days,” Wilson shares vocal duty on “God Only Knows,” Wonder plays harmonica on “Blame It On the Sun” and The Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere contributes an organ solo to “How Can I Be Sure.” Says Monica, “It was very cool that these guys came back to reconnect with songs that helped put them on the map as artists. I didn’t have to persuade anyone or call in any favors. They all agreed immediately.”

The name Mancini has, of course, been a hallmark of musical excellence for more than half a century, dating from the emergence of Monica’s father, Henry Mancini, as one of the preeminent composers of film scores and of such iconic, cinema-based standards as Breakfast at Tiffany’s “Moon River” and the title tracks for Days of Wine and Roses and Two for the Road. Monica’s own musical journey began at the height of her father’s popularity in the late 1960s. Indeed, she was in her father’s employ, as a member of the Henry Mancini Chorus. From there, she built a thriving career as a studio singer, constantly in demand for backup and commercial work.

Monica’s switch from behind-the-scenes to vocal headliner wasn’t planned. “The only reason my solo career began,” she candidly admits, “was because my dad passed away. I had no ambitions to give up studio work, but I was presented with the opportunity to go out and do some tribute work – symphony concerts built around my dad’s music.” The success of those concerts prompted the release of Monica’s eponymous debut album in 1998. “It was obvious,” she says of that recording, “that the first thing I would do was the music of my dad. Then you want to stay on the same path.

You begin to grow a fan base and want to stay true to what people are responding to.” So, for her second album (and first for Concord), released in 2000, Monica opted to pay tribute to another legendary American composer (and frequent collaborator with her father) with Dreams of Johnny Mercer. A collection of film-based songs, Cinema Paradiso, followed two years later. Then, in 2004, Mancini returned to her father’s songbook for The Ultimate Mancini, a double Grammy nominee supported by a 60-city tour. Such extensive touring has taught