Personnel: Peter Nero (piano); Crystal Gayle, Mel Torm?, Peabo Bryson, Maureen McGovern (vocals); Grover Washington, Jr. (saxophone); Doc Severinsen (trumpet); Steve Pemberton (drums).
Audio Mixer: Ron Christopher.
Recording information: Crawford Post Production, Atlanta, GA; Edd Calehoff Studios, New York, NY; Group IV Recording, Hollywood, CA; Quad Studios, Nashville, TN; Sigma Sound Studios, Philadephia, PA; Sound Design, Santa Barbara, CA.
Unknown Contributor Role: Kathie Lee Gifford.
When Peter Nero served as musical director of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra, his musical outlook wasn't unlike that of the sweet bands of the '20s, '30s, and '40s -- essentially, he was giving you orchestral pop that incorporated jazz and classical elements. Nero, like the old-time sweet bands, usually doesn't appeal to jazz purists. But then, the pianist never claimed to be a purist himself. Released in 1994, It Had to Be You isn't among his orchestral projects; Nero leads an acoustic piano trio that employs Michael Barnett on bass and Steve Pemberton on drums. But the mentality that Nero brings to this ballad-oriented CD isn't much different from the mentality that he brought to the Philly Pops -- It Had to Be You has one foot in instrumental jazz, the other in traditional vocal pop, and classical overtones in both areas. This is very much an easy listening album; a laid-back, easygoing mood prevails whether Nero provides instrumental versions of standards or features major vocalists, who range from Mel Torm? on "Long Ago and Far Away" to Peabo Bryson on "All the Things You Are" and Crystal Gayle on the title song. It should be noted that not all of Nero's guests were actually in the studio with him. Nero's piano trio recorded the basic tracks at Philly's legendary Sigma Sound Studios, where soul heavyweights like Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff produced so many great sessions in the '60s and '70s. But most of this album's vocals were recorded in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville and subsequently overdubbed when the mixing took place. Jazz fans tend to take a dim view of overdubbing, but it works well enough for Nero on this pleasant, if less than exceptional, mood album. ~ Alex Henderson