31 Mar

CD Review – Strauss/Korngold/Schreker Orchestral Works Sinfonia of London | John Wilson

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CD Review – Strauss/Korngold/Schreker Orchestral Works Sinfonia of London | John WilsonCD Review – Strauss/Korngold/Schreker
Orchestral Works
Sinfonia of London | John Wilson
CHANDOS CHSA 5292 [64:22]

If strings are your thing, then this release will appeal to you. Supposedly it is a follow-up to the highly praised 'English Music for Strings', reviewed in 2021.

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30 Mar

Luna Park

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Luna Park
(Eric Siday)
Analysed by Robert Walton

When I first visited Sydney, Australia, the most memorable thing I saw was Luna Park across the harbour behind the famous bridge. In fact it was the first amusement park I’d ever seen. You couldn’t miss its flashing lights and vertically predominant position like Paris’s Eiffel Tower filling the sky and giving the city its character, years before the opera house. Composer Eric Siday had moved to New York in 1939 so it would have been the famous one at Coney Island which inspired his composition.

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Luna Park
(Eric Siday)
Analysed by Robert Walton

When I first visited Sydney, Australia, the most memorable thing I saw was Luna Park across the harbour behind the famous bridge. In fact it was the first amusement park I’d ever seen. You couldn’t miss its flashing lights and vertically predominant position like Paris’s Eiffel Tower filling the sky and giving the city its character, years before the opera house. Composer Eric Siday had moved to New York in 1939 so it would have been the famous one at Coney Island which inspired his composition.

Siday was a violinist and composer who during the 1920s and 30s occasionally doubled on alto saxophone in British dance bands including that of Ambrose and Ray Noble. Little did musicians and music lovers anticipate the coming of Chappell’s Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra in the 1940s. Once it became established the name itself conjured up the finest combination of its kind in the world with players borrowed from the capital’s symphony orchestras. The high standard of tunes, arrangements and names like Robert Farnon, Sidney Torch, Wally Stott (who became Angela Morley), Clive Richardson and Charles Williams told you in no uncertain terms that Light music had reached its Golden Era. No light orchestra has ever come anywhere near its high standard. It must surely have been the pinnacle of such excellence. We would never hear its like again.

Announcing this “down under” pleasure ground, swirling strings quickly show what they’re capable of, rising up and heading for the heights, only to dive down slightly after reaching the top. After a deliberate pause, the busy first chorus gives the arco strings a real chance to display their wares and portray the activities in such a park - the Big Dipper, dodgems, the Ghost Train, and the Big Wheel. This is pure Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra which clearly marks its time and place. And then escaping the repetitive nature of the notes, the strings are given a little freedom with a chorus of longer notes, plenty of syncopation and less tension. But busy is still the operative word!

After another obvious pause we arrive at the official bridge and a tune with some nice decorations, several mini climaxes followed by some fun orchestration and a sudden pizzicato ending.

We immediately return to the opening and the strings are again hard at work with the lively atmosphere that highlights Luna Park. A woodwind flourish briefly cuts in, but we’re soon back to the busyness with a really neat ending.

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25 Mar

CD Review – Ruth Slenczynska – My Life In Music

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CD REVIEW   My Life in MusicCD Review – Ruth Slenczynska
My Life In Music
Decca 4852255 [67:41]

This is a remarkable release made in 2021 by a pianist – who has been playing since she was aged four – in her 97th year. Born in Sacramento, California, to Polish immigrants, she performed on television at age five, and at six made her European concert debut in Berlin.

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20 Mar

CD Review – Found in Dreams … Helen Habershon (clarinet)/John Linehan (piano)

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CD REVIEW found in dreamsCD Review – Found in Dreams …
Helen Habershon (clarinet)/John Linehan (piano)
divine art dda 25225 [57:12]

When I read a record company referring to a performer/composer and using the words "easy listening" and "in the light music tradition", I soon have their latest CD plopping through my letterbox. So it was with clarinettist Helen Habershon, who I must admit I had not heard of before. Evidently, this is her fourth album, with one receiving 'Album of the Month' and two 'Album of the Week' accolades on Classic FM.

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20 Mar

CD Review – America Daniel Hope

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CD REVIEW America DANIEL HOCD Review – America
Daniel Hope
DG 4861940 [84’]

A Daniel Hope album, 'Journey Into Mozart', was reviewed here back in 2018 and since then the South African virtuoso violinist of Irish and German Jewish descent (b.1973) has made several other imaginatively conceived discs. This latest one is very much in the territory of light music.

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02 Mar

Frank DeVol

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Frank DeVol
A tribute by Robert Walton

It’s amazing the number of people in the entertainment business who have a “De” before their surname. There’s Buddy DeFranco, Gloria DeHaven, Reginald DeKoven, Eddie DeLange, Vaughn DeLeath, Milton DeLugg, Gene DePaul, Peter DeRose, Buddy DeSylva and our star arranger for this article, Frank DeVol.

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Frank DeVol
A tribute by Robert Walton

It’s amazing the number of people in the entertainment business who have a “De” before their surname. There’s Buddy DeFranco, Gloria DeHaven, Reginald DeKoven, Eddie DeLange, Vaughn DeLeath, Milton DeLugg, Gene DePaul, Peter DeRose, Buddy DeSylva and our star arranger for this article, Frank DeVol.

Frank Devol’s main claim to fame was his 1948 orchestral introduction to Nature Boy for Nat “King” Cole. This now legendary Delian dissonance marked a very important moment in popular music history. It was the time the musical baton was symbolically passed on to “arranger-in-waiting” for the stars, Nelson Riddle, anticipating all those beautiful singles Cole recorded. And later this led to Frank Sinatra finally joining forces with Riddle. In fact it was during Axel Stordahl’s reign as Sinatra’s orchestrator that DeVol came up with that revolutionary chart for Cole. Frank DeVol was also brilliant at writing instrumentals.....with a difference. These jazz-based arrangements never do quite what you think. Listen to his “Portraits” album on Jasmine (JASCD 538) and you’ll see what I mean. His string writing has always been special and top priority.

But this versatile musician was also known as Frank Denny De Vol a performer specializing in deadpan characters. He starred in the 1961 film “Parent Trap”. This was highly unusual because arrangers aren’t normally known for their ability to act. They tend to concentrate on the creative process. The last thing they want to do is show off. For them things come alive later in the studio when the players emerge from the woodwork!

Occasionally he sang. Remember the duet with Margaret Whiting in I Said My Pajamas (And Put On My Prayers) which charted in 1950? Other vocalists he arranged and conducted for were The Four Lads, Jo Stafford, Bing Crosby, Mel Tormé, Dinah Shore, Jack Smith, Gordon MacRae, Doris Day, Vic Damone, Dean Martin, Jimmy Wakely and Ella Fitzgerald. After DeVol’s wife died in 1989 he married Jimmy Dorsey singer Helen O’Connell. Talking of big bands, DeVol arranged and played lead alto sax for Horace Heidt and arranged for Alvino Rey.

On the film front Frank scored more than 50 movies including “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, “Pillow Talk”, ‘Hush Sweet Charlotte”, “Cat Ballou”, Flight of the Phoenix”, “Send Me No Flowers”, “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” and “Frisco Kid”.

It all started when the young Frank DeVol played violin in his father’s orchestra. Little did he know then that this modest beginning on a bowed 4 string instrument would lead him to becoming one of the world’s great arrangers.

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15 Feb

CD Review – Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – (British Light Music Vol. 5)

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CD Review   Samuel Coleridge Taylor  British Light Music vol. 5CD Review – Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
RTE Concert Orchestra / Adrian Leaper
(British Light Music Vol. 5)
Naxos 8555191

The latest re-issue in the [now Naxos] British Light Music series is the collection, previously available on the Marco Polo label [8.223516, (p) 1995 ], of works by Samuel Coleridge Taylor.

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10 Feb

CD Review – Eddie Calvert – The Man With The Golden Trumpet – A Centenary Tribute - his 29 finest

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CD Review – Eddie Calvert –The Man With The Golden Trumpet – A Centenary Tribute - his 29 finestCD Review – Eddie Calvert
The Man With The Golden Trumpet
A Centenary Tribute - his 29 finest
Retrospective RTR4392 [78’]

The Retrospective label, with its expert collector and compiler Ray Crick, is a rich repository of our kind of music and I feel sure this release will be of interest to many readers.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.