Percy Faith arrangement analysed
by Robert Walton
Back in 1963 somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, I was the pianist on the Greek liner Lakonia with a quartet consisting of Norman Coker (leader and drummer), David Williams (double bass) and Mike Elliott (tenor saxophone). He was constantly extolling the virtues of the great jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (which he pronounced “Coil-marn Harkins”).
Norman came from West Africa, David from Trinidad and Mike from Jamaica. Four years later Mike was a member of the million selling rhythm-and-blues octet The Foundations. One of the pieces we played on the cruise was Ciao, Ciao Bambina (Piove) that I immediately took to. It was Domenico Modugno’s follow-up to his first big hit Volare. To this day I love it. Somehow it had passed me by when first released. Years later I discovered the Percy Faith version, so hence this analysis.
There’s no doubt Percy Faith is a master of the simple arrangement, which a brief 4 bar intro shows all too clearly. A series of hushed triplets lead smoothly into this relaxed Italian-type foxtrot and continues under the melody. A glockenspiel adds its colours to the now warm close-harmony strings, by which time you’re completely caught up in the dream-like atmosphere. This is then repeated.
Then the strings strike skywards building up to, or to be exact leading down to the next section, which is not the bridge. Why? Because there isn’t one! The violins now in their element sing out with the lower strings supporting from beneath. They continue (minus lower strings) with piano decorations. After an obvious pause, the lower strings take over the tune. The violins supported by the rest of the orchestra, then bring this delightful ditty via some pretty chords and harp help to a positive end with an unexpectedly gentle detached bump.
This is one of the simplest arrangements I know but craftsman Faith handles it as no one else could, giving the song the ultimate treatment. He always does full justice to the tune he’s working on. Whatever it requires he gives it just the right amount - nothing more and nothing less. He never employed effects just for the sake of them. Percy Faith is a restrained decorator and before he even puts pencil to paper he knows exactly how it will sound, always with the listener in mind. As ever he is conducting the very best musicians.
In the 1950s Percy Faith had a special affinity with Latin American rhythms which proved very popular, but when I was announcing on Radio 390, his 1960s albums of some of the finest standards were also given a great deal of airplay.
“Ciao, Ciao Bambina” Percy Faith
Golden Age of Light Music Guild (GLCD 5218)
The Conrad Salinger Orchestra
Georgie Stoll conducts the MGM Studio Orchestra
Sepia 1333 (73:32)
Congratulations to Sepia’s Richard Tay for giving us a rarity these days: a release very much “our kind of music’’, which – up to its sad demise almost five years ago – would have been one of many similar releases reviewed in the Robert Farnon Society’s printed Journal Into Melody.
Candide – Overture On The Waterfront – Symphonic Suite Fancy Free – complete ballet
West Side Story – Symphonic Dances On The Town –Two Dance Episodes.
Hanover Philharmonie – conductor Iain Sutherland.
SOMM ARIADNE 5002
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Orchestral Music Naxos 8.573903 Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Alvaro Cassuto. Symphonic Overtures 1 & 2; Pastoral; Romance; Symphonic Prelude; Intermezzo; Viver ou Morrer Prelude; Piano Concerto. Imagine a delicious cross between...
On Sunday 24th February 2019 the Mark FitzGerald Orchestra is holding its annual fundraising concert in aid of the British Home.
The British Home,
London SW16 3JB
Tickets: £7.00 [Concessions £5.00] to include tea and coffee.
Booking: 020-8670 8261 or www.britishhome.org.uk Seating is limited- early booking is advised.
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s hard to believe that a film tune as original as On Green Dolphin Street would remain virtually unknown for over ten years. It was written for the 1947 Lana Turner movie “Green Dolphin Street” but if it hadn’t been for American trumpeter Miles Davis’s 1958 recording it might never have surfaced to first become a jazz standard and then a fully paid up member of the Great American Songbook. In the 1960’s I ordered a copy of the sheet music from a well-known shop in Fulham, London, but was told there was no such title as On Green Dolphin Street. I begged to differ of course insisting to go ahead with the order. The following week I was presented with the said song copy and a somewhat embarrassing apology.
One of the best arrangements of On Green Dolphin Street was by Englishman Brian Fahey for Cyril Ornadel’s Starlight Symphony. It was given the full treatment and how! Ornadel’s orchestral policy was to dress-up good tunes symphonically. For openers we find ourselves in the Finale of Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony before the orchestra builds up to a terrific climax getting every ounce of feeling out of this magnificent melody as it soars. Already you may well be saying “I know this tune but not from this source”. Well, you are absolutely right. It bears an astonishing similarity to Lionel Bart’s Food, Glorious Food from “Oliver” but from my observation, it was probably Bart who pinched the idea from Miles Davis.
Anyway since Bronislau Kaper was the first to compose this majestic tune it is only right and proper that this is the one we should be analysing and indeed praising. The beautifully quiet answering phrase with oboe singing its heart out (Sibelius again) is the perfect contrast to the opening. Even in an up-tempo setting it works well - it’s easy to imagine Oscar Peterson’s percussive fingers flying over the piano. The whole chorus reveals itself as a gorgeous song at a time when such compositions were a rarity (Ned Washington wrote the words). No wonder it entered the world of great standards.
Then going into a Latin beat the tune still holds up well revealing its ability to be played in any tempo. Even more in the final moments the answering phrase through to the end is simply gorgeous capturing the imagination. It all adds quality to Kaper’s creation.
To think the seeds of On Green Dolphin Street once lay dormant in the soundtrack of an MGM film about a Channel Islander who emigrated to New Zealand and sent home for the wrong bride. It might have been a weak romance but at least there was a convincing earthquake!
Heard on “Contrasts” Guild (GLCD 5218)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
It may not have occurred to you, but Sidney Torch and Nelson Riddle have something in common. They both had a special “feel’’ for music and when the opportunity arose they couldn’t resist the temptation of maximizing the rhythm with a staccato effect, especially in three quarter time. The phrasing of the opening tune of My Waltz for You has two beautiful silences indicating the wonderfully appropriate cut-off points on the second beat of bars 2 and 6. These are both excellent examples of the Torch touch probably first captured by Johann Strauss Junior.
Nelson Riddle in his string arrangement of Vilia (Guild GLCD 5120) played as a waltz, gets every ounce of feeling out of the melody he could possibly find - living every natural nuance. He allows the notes to do the talking. It’s very similar to the Torch approach and gives the tune a whole new boost. They may be modern masters of music but it’s decidedly an “old fashioned” dance feel. In spite of their varied backgrounds, trombonist Riddle from the world of swing and organist Torch from popular music, both seem quite at ease with the same sort of phrasing. In no way is anything ever corny.
So let’s follow My Waltz for You in detail to find out what drives it. Johann Strauss Junior may have been the “Waltz King”, but Sidney Torch was perhaps the “Schmaltz King”, if that tiny intro with a violin solo is anything to go by. Listen to the satisfying way Torch writes for flutes. The first thing you’ll notice is what an exquisite but slightly sad melody it is, caused entirely by the strings arranged in close harmony like a jazz musician might score it. At the same time you couldn’t get a more relaxed waltz if you tried. It’s almost asleep! The first haunting 16 bars include all those staccato breaks, which build up quite logically to a song-like climax.
And so we arrive at the middle section with the tempo just a little faster. The lower strings are followed by flutes, clarinet and violins that shortly take a sudden dramatic dive. An oboe supported by the same flutes, hands back to the strings that ascend to produce a lovely Torch-like symphonic crescendo. Assorted solo brass and harp bring us gently back to the top, with the orchestra providing a positive finish. The tiny intro we heard earlier becomes the coda. The only grumble is that we aren’t treated to any orchestral “improvising” which we get in Torch’s faster pieces. However My Waltz for You is classic Torch with just the right amount of rubato and is given a perfect performance.
“The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra”
Vocalion CDEA 6094