ROBERTO INGLEZ — ELGIN’S MARVEL
In the centenary year of his birth DON LEE suggests that it’s time to re-evaluate the pioneering output of Elgin’s Latin-American Scot.
Most people outside the readership of Journal Into Melody today have not heard of Roberto lnglez, nor listened to his very individual sort of Latin-American music. Yet, instantly recognisable — on his specialist slow numbers anyway — by his relaxed one-finger piano style that must have been the background music to many a romantic evening in the 1940s/1950s; this was easy listening mood music years before its time.
Lots of his recordings, issued on almost 100 Parlophone 78s have never made it to vinyl, let alone CD, although there are 3 CDs available on Vocalion (CDEA 6O62/6095/6131) and all are well worth acquiring. Guild CD have done their bit too and individual tracks by lnglez can be found on GLCD 5103/5133/5138/5173.
But who was lnglez and what were his origins?
Robert Maxstone Inglis was born June 29th 1913 at 7 West Road, Elgin in Morayshire. His mother was a 20 year-old ‘clerkess’ Jeannie Inglis; no father is listed in the birth register.
‘Berties’ piano lessons began at 5 years of age and by the age of 12 he had proved himself in exams. At 16 years, he was the pianist in a local band: Eddie’s Melody Makers. In 1933 a new roadhouse, ‘The Oakwood’, had opened on the outskirts of Elgin, where the brand new ’Bert Inglis Melody Makers’ provided the necessary music. The following year this ambitious little outfit won first prize in the preliminary heat for the North East of Scotland Dance Band Championship. They played three numbers: "Lullaby Lady", "You Or No One" and "A Bugle Call Rang Out". The main prizes were a cup presented by ‘The Tune Times’ and a year’s supply of dance orchestrations from Lawrence Wright Music. I wonder whatever happened to the cup?
Bert’s main occupation was training for dentistry but a choice had to be made: stay in Elgin with steady work or, inspired by his dedication to music and a determination to succeed, seek fame and fortune, perhaps, in London.
He left Elgin and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music studying orchestration and arrangement and whilst there Bert met another enthusiastic student keen on the Latin sound then emanating from the London club scene — one Edmundo Ros. In 1940 Ros formed ‘Ros’s Rumba Romantics’ with Bert on piano — now renamed Roberto lnglez to fall in with the Latin image. Parlophone saw the commercial possibilities and despite wartime difficulties of shellac supply some 28 numbers were recorded in 1941/1942. Ros predominates but there is enough of the lnglez piano featured to judge how the Inglez style was developing.
By 1944, IngIez had left Ros to establish his own 9-piece rumba band. The new band played one most important date on October 15th 1944 at the now demolished Stoll Theatre on Kingsway: it was ‘Jazz Jamboree 1944’. HeadIining was the whole Glenn Miller AEF orchestra and strings, no less. Incidentally, the music programme recorded as also present the GeraIdo Orchestra with on 2nd Alto, one Wally Stott. It must have been quite an event.
In 1945, lnglez made a huge professional jump to become bandleader at London’s premier hotel, The Savoy, as relief band to Carroll Gibbons. Parlophone saw their chance again and lnglez, now with his own band, his own arrangements and — at last — his own sound, began to issue a long series of 78s beginning with "Laura" in October 1945. David Ades chose this for his EMI compilation ‘Memories Of The Light Programme’ in 1993. Even though the Light Programme didn’t officially open until 1946, "Laura" was regularly heard for many years after it was first released. Sometimes Roberto’s records were show tunes and film favourites amongst the instrumentals aimed at foreign markets, and there were a few inoffensive vocals by Inglez in an unmistakable Scottish burr.
However, prominent amongst the material recorded were slow and seductive Latin rhumbas like "Come Closer To Me", "Mi Vida" and "Frenesi", that if gathered together and sequenced would more than match any ‘Iate night/after hours’ material that predominated in LPs of the 60s and 70s, right up to the present.
By the late 40s Inglez was able to undertake foreign tours during the summer vacation and it was the success of these which eventually led to him to be summonsed back to The Savoy to fulfil his contractual obligations.
When EMI began to issue vinyl in 1953 there were three 45s and one 10" LP by the Roberto lnglez Orchestra but they were all 78 reissues. Another departure was in the field of Radio Programme/Library music and there is, at least one example of a live performance of the Inglez band for The Savoy in a half hour programme ‘London Town’. An advert reproduced in JIM No. 145 (December 2000) is the only evidence I’ve seen of this and more details would be very much appreciated if anybody can throw further light on this little-known aspect of lnglez’s activities.
In early 1954, with little warning, Inglez left The Savoy and emigrated to Chile to begin a new life there and the regular series of Parlophone 78s dried up. Recording activity in Chile remains scantily documented and awaits further research. However, a World Record LP of the early 70s ‘escaped’ to Britain and there were a handful of other albums released locally in South America.
There I must finish for the time being — hopefully there may be a revival of interest in this centenary year of the ‘Elgin Marvel’ that will lead to a re-evaluation of his unique style of music, and perhaps a more comprehensive reissue programme of his works.
Roberto Inglez died in Santiago on 4 September 1977 aged 65.
This tribute appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’