The Golden Age of Light Music - The Pianist in the Spotlight
List of tracks and performers below review
rec. 1934-59
GUILD GLCD 5173 [77:24]

The time has come in Guild’s Light Music series for the pianist to shine. Quite a few headed their own orchestras, others were less well known but still ‘featured’ in an opus or two, whilst others were big names whose presence - for example Winifred Atwell - was at least on equal terms with that of the band.

The overwhelming majority of tracks come from the 1950s, but for the last three we dip back to the 1930s. Some cuts are very brief - hovering around the two minute mark, but given the talents of the arrangers, one never feels short-changed. We start with George Greeley and his rich romantic Love Letters, a Victor Young song essayed with charm here. That’s followed by a jaunty number called Near You which Roger Williams deals with adeptly. We find George Shearing, no less, on hand joining Billy May for an all-star gathering of the clans in a jointly arranged Marvin Fisher-Jack Segal number. Dig the modish 1957 percussion, fellers. David Rose turns up with his Concerto, a Rachmaninovian affair in miniature - what wasn’t in those days? Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson comes on with The Way You Look Tonight, though I won’t be leaving Teddy Wilson for him. We need a novelty number at this point and Norrie (Norman William) Paramor provides it with Silly Billy. Winifred Atwell joins Cyril Ornadel for their 1954 Philips recording of Vendetta; Jeez, the whole bunch sound like they’re on Benzedrine. To jump from that to the cod-harpsichord machinations of the fabulously named Dolores Ventura and her husband, the equally potent Ivor Slaney, is obviously the Guild compilers’ idea of a good gag. Ivor was an oboist and pops up during his wife’s brief silences to play a tune that threatens to turn into Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.

It’s at this juncture that sanity is restored, first by Robert Farnon and his beautiful performance of Kern’s Can I Forget You and then by Morton Gould’s version of My Ship, with especially subtle and effective wind writing. These two effortlessly outshine the others for taste and clarity of thought. Still, we don’t always want taste and clarity of thought; we sometimes want Robert Docker, reprising that old Addinsell-Rachmaninov groove in Legend, played by the snooty-sounding William Hill-Bowen and the Melachrino Orchestra. We also encounter Billy Mayerl playing Ronnie (Ronald George) Munro, and - a variation on the Docker conundrum as noted above - Semprini’s Mediterranean Concerto, a big six minute affair with uncredited pianist that sounds like Albéniz and Rachmaninov had kicked around a few bars together admiring the scenery.

Back in 1939 The Pall Mall Revellers - those were the days - concoct a cocky Rag-timed number called City Centre, written by Robert Keys. Then we have Carroll Gibbons ‘and his Boy Friends’ - how did they get away with it? - turning on the pre-war charm in a film selection. Finally there’s the tragically short-lived Raie da Costa and her splendid piano, accompanied by Ray Noble’s elite band.

So. A mixed bag, all right, but with quite a few pluses, and even the minuses are amusing, bizarre or both. Has David Adés won an award for his booklet notes yet?

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Bob Briggs

Track listing
Love Letters (Young) - George Greeley, piano and orchestra [3:33]
Near You (Craig) -Roger Williams, his piano and orchestra [2:46]
Because You’re Mine (Cahn) - Paul Weston and his orchestra [2:52]
Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You (Fisher) - George Shearing (piano) with Billy May and his orchestra [4:34]
Concerto (Rose) - David Rose and his orchestra with Don Ferris (piano) [2:48]
The Way You Look Tonight (from the film Swing Time) (Kern) - Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson with Bill Shepherd and his orchestra [2:19]
Soft Sands (Stein) - Lou Stein (piano) with Bill Fontaine’s orchestra [2:25]
Silly Billy (Paramor) - Norrie Paramor (piano) and his orchestra [2:07]
Invitation Waltz (from Ring Round The Moon) (Addinsell) - Semprini (piano) and orchestra [3:00]
Carnavalito (Zaldivar) - Pierre Dorsey, his piano and orchestra [2:45]
Vendetta (Jones) - Winifred Atwell (piano) with Cyril Ornadel and his orchestra [2:22]
Georgian Rumba (Slaney) - Dolores Ventura (piano) with Ivor Slaney [2:22]
Can I Forget You (Kern) - Robert Farnon and his orchestra featuring Bill McGuffie (piano) [3:20]
My Ship (from Lady In The Dark) (Weill) - Morton Gould (piano) and his orchestra [5:08]
Legend (Docker) - The Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino featuring William Hill-Bowen (piano) [3:54]
Heart And Soul (Carmichael) - Roberto Inglez and his orchestra [3:19]
Starlight (Cesana) - Otto Cesana and his orchestra featuring Bernie Leighton (piano) [2:50]
Punch And Judy Polka (Munro) - Billy Mayerl Rhythm Ensemble [2:54]
Mediterranean Concerto (Semprini) - Sidney Torch and his orchestra [6:39]
Jungle Bird (Burman) - Stanley Black, his piano and orchestra [3:08]
While A Cigarette Was Burning (Kenny) - Art Warner and the Latin Quartet Orchestra [2:39]
City Centre (Keys) - Pall Mall Revellers [2:34]
Mr. Dodd Takes The Air - Film Selection Am I In Love, Remember Me (Dubin: Warren) - Carroll Gibbons (piano) and his Boy Friends [2:42]
At The Court Of Old King Cole (Da Costa) - Raie da Costa (piano) with Ray Noble and his orchestra

A mixed bag but with quite a few pluses, and even the minuses are amusing, bizarre or both.