17 Apr

Gershwinicity

Written by

Art Deco Trio
SOMMECD 0631 (71’00’)

This is an entertaining release of 19 songs by the foremost ‘cross-over’ composer, the great George Gershwin, arranged for clarinet, saxophone and piano, which (to quote the well-informed booklet notes) “combine jazz influences with the structures and textures of classical music”, and well worth investigating by light music lovers.

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07 Apr

Festmusik : A Legacy

Written by

Onyx Brass ǀ John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5284 (67’25”)

If you are a brass enthusiast, you will enjoy this latest release from a brilliant ensemble; if you are interested in chamber music – admittedly less likely – it will appeal to you; and if you are both of the above and also among the many admirers of John Wilson, who conducts on the three longest tracks (32’48”), then acquiring this is a no-brainer.

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03 Apr

Sophisticated Lady

Written by

(Ellington & Parish)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed By Robert Walton

When I first noticed the names of Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington, Sidney Torch, Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra all together on a record, I thought I must have been seeing things!

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(Ellington & Parish)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed By Robert Walton

When I first noticed the names of Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington, Sidney Torch, Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra all together on a record, I thought I must have been seeing things! Here was one of the most influential figures in jazz in the same genre as two top English light orchestral composer/conductors as well as one of the greatest orchestras in light music. The unusual assemblage of such a list was unbelievable. You couldn’t get a more unlikely group. And to think that Ellington led the most famous jazz band of all time.

When Sidney Torch became involved with light orchestras he seemed to have given up arranging popular songs. Maybe he’d got tired of them in his organ playing days or was commissioned to concentrate on his own music. So it was an unexpected pleasure to discover him arranging an Ellington tune for the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams. (BBC London Transcription Service). So let’s have a listen to Torch getting into the mind of a jazz musician.

If ever a melody was given the full treatment it was Sidney Torch’s 1945 arrangement of Duke Ellington’s 1933 standard Sophisticated Lady. Written in the key of A Flat, the release goes to G, but the clever bit is the way it returns to A Flat. All the orchestral ingredients of Torch’s DNA are featured, both dramatic and light. The introductory attacking strings give the piece a huge build-up merging into those familiar downward chromatic notes of the song, followed by a long simmering chord helped by the harp before reaching the main theme. The “David Rose” sliding effect in the bridge proved most effective. Sophisticated Lady is hard enough to sing, let alone play, so it’s just as well the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra was on hand. Actually it sounds better played instrumentally. In fact it began life as an instrumental but I believe possesses the seeds of a piano concerto.

And again the orchestra repeats another exciting run-up, this time sounding almost like an organ. I wonder if that was deliberate or co-incidental? Then the sound of background music from an imaginary blockbuster biblical movie, complete with solo violin. And that haunting Ellington tune returns. Did I hear a touch of Torch’s Radio Romantic?

A single bell tolls Torch’s moment of freedom when the song gets everything the arranger can throw at it. Pure Torch. And then into waltz time. But how is this masterpiece going to end? Quietly. I wonder what the Duke would have said? Guild Light Music GLCD 5223

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11 Mar

Champs Elysees Café

Written by

(Joseph Kuhn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It must be highly unusual for a three minute composition on a 78 rpm disc to actually supply music for each scene like a film soundtrack. I can’t recall such a thing.

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(Joseph Kuhn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It must be highly unusual for a three minute composition on a 78 rpm disc to actually supply music for each scene like a film soundtrack. I can’t recall such a thing.

In this case the location is Paris (familiar to the composer) when we are picked up by a limousine. One’s mind immediately turns to Gershwin whose reputation for describing big cities is well established as An American in Paris, but the opening sound of Acquaviva is more appropriate (remember New York in a Nutshell?) This is followed by a lush welcoming string passage when we are ushered courteously into a humble café. You may say this is a little over the top, but this is no ordinary restaurant. You can tell by the music and the decor. A haunting Mancini-like waltz greets us as we step down from this classy automobile and enter a warm and friendly establishment.

Now seated at a table, you know you’re in for the ultimate in French cuisine or just a drink, because right on cue the sound of an accordion joins the orchestra. We’re in Paris alright! Made to order music just like the food. Yes, they’ve thought of everything. It’s the kind of café where you can have anything you like, and you won’t get annoyed glances from the staff, even if it’s just a coffee! After more string sounds, solos from the piano, guitar and woodwind provide the perfect atmosphere. Before we know it we’re back to the accordion but not for long because our limo has arrived and awaits us. That was a quick drink! Acquaviva is again on hand to whip us away into the traffic of the French capital’s most famous thoroughfare.

In conclusion a word or two about our esteemed composer, Joseph Francis Kuhn. I have to admit I was totally ignorant of him until a little research put me right. He was an American symphonic composer, arranger and conductor known for his sweeping rhapsodies. The Paris Theatre 0rchestra was one of the many groups connected with the American Miller Company one of which was the 101 Strings. Sadly Kuhn died at the tragically young age of 37 in 1962 from a spinal cord injury. Look out for four of his other works on Guild CDs.

Catch Champs Elysees Café on “Confetti” Guild GLCD 5175

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28 Feb

French Music For The Stage

Written by

Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHAN 20151 (78:40)

The estimable Estonian ensemble under its fellow countryman and former MD, the highly regarded veteran maestro Neeme Järvi (described by his record company as “legendary”), bring us another enjoyable classical-lite Chandos collection...

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27 Feb

CD Review – The Best Of 'Make Way For Music'

Written by

CD REVIEW   The Best of Make Way for MusicFeaturing the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra
2-CD set - Total Playing Time approx. 117 minutes
The NDO Project – CD 213 / 214

Readers may recall that, a while ago, I wrote a review of a 2-CD set issued by The NDO Project, which included a short history of the latter, and featured the BBC Midland Light and Midland Radio Orchestras.

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17 Feb

New Year’s Concert 2021

Written by

Vienna Philharmonic ǀ Riccardo Muti
Sony (2 CD) 19439840162 (1:44:0) ; DVD 19439840179
(also on Blue-ray & 3 Vinyl)

This annual event in its 82nd year was a much different occasion than normal with the concert being performed to an empty Golden Hall of the Wiener Musikverein due to Covid-19.

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15 Feb

CD Review – Dicky Bird Hop

Written by

Dicky Bird Hop CD ReviewSolo Piano Arrangements Of Light Music Classics, Performed By Paul Guinery.
Twenty-two tracks by – inter-alia – Geoffrey Toye , Jack Strachey Richard Addinsell, Haydn Wood, Vivian Ellis, Billy Mayerl, Madeleine Dring, Eric Coates, etc. Total playing time 78 min. 31 sec.
EM RECORDS – EMR CD 064

The name Paul Guinery might possibly 'ring a bell' to those who may recognise him as a staff announcer on BBC Radio Three and also the World Service; he still appears on-air from time-to-time as a freelance radio newsreader.

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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.