The Golden Age of Light Music – The Pianist in the Spotlight
Victor YOUNG (1899 – 1956) Love Letters (arranged by George GREELEY (1917 – 2007)) [3:33]
Francis CRAIG (1900 – 1966) Near You [2:46]
Sammy CAHN (1913 – 1993) and Nicholas BRODSZKY (1905 – 1958) Because You're Mine (arranged by Paul WESTON (born Paul WETSTEIN) (1912 – 1996)) [2:52]
Marvin FISHER and Jack SEGAL (1918 – 2005) Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You (arranged by George SHEARING (b.1919) and Billy MAY (1916 – 2004)) [4:34]
David ROSE (1910 – 1990) Concerto [2:48]
Jerome KERN (1885 – 1945) The Way You Look Tonight (from film Swing Time) [2:19]
Lou STEIN (1922 – 2002) Soft Sands [2:25]
[Norrie] William PARAMOR (1914 – 1979) Silly Billy Norman [2:07]
Richard ADDINSELL (1904 – 1977) Invitation Waltz (from Ring Round The Moon) [3:00]
Edmundo Porteno ZALDIVAR Carnavalito [2:45]
Ken JONES, Chris ARMSTRONG Vendetta [2:22]
Ivor SLANEY (1921 – 1998) Georgian Rumba [2:22]
Jerome KERN Can I Forget You (arranged by Robert FARNON (1917 – 2005)) [3:20]
Kurt WEILL (1900 – 1950) My Ship (from Lady In The Dark) (arranged by Morton GOULD (1913 – 1996)) [5:08]
Robert DOCKER (1918 – 1992) Legend [3:54]
Hoagy CARMICHAEL (1899 – 1981) Heart and Soul [3:19]
Otto CESANA (1899-1980) Starlight [2:50]
Ronald George MUNRO (1907 – 1989) Punch and Judy Polka [2:54]
Alberto Fernando Riccardo SEMPRINI (1908 – 1990) Mediterranean Concerto [6:39]
Maurice BURMAN Jungle Bird (arranged by Stanley BLACK (pseudonym for Solomon SCHWARTZ) (1913 – 2002)) [3:08]
Charles F KENNY (b.1898) and Nick A KENNY (1895 – 1975) While a Cigarette was Burning [2:39]
Robert KEYS (1914 – 1999) City Centre [2:34]
Al DUBIN (1891 – 1945) and Harry WARREN (1893 – 1981) Mr Dodd Takes the Air (Film Selection Am I In Love, Remember Me) [2:42]
Raie Da COSTA (1904 – 1934) At the Court of Old King Cole [3:03]
Otto Cesana, featuring Bernie Leighton (piano) (Cesana), Robert Farnon, featuring Bill McGuffie (piano) (Kern), Roberto Inglez (Carmichael), David Rose, with Don Ferris (piano) (Rose), Sidney Torch, pianist uncredited on disc label (Semprini) and Paul Weston (Brodszky) all conducting “his own” Orchestra; The Melachrino Orchestra, conducted by George Melachrino, featuring William Hill–Bowen (piano) (Docker); Billy Mayerl Rhythm Ensemble (Munro); Pall Mall Revellers (Keys); Winifred Atwell (piano), with Cyril Ornadel and his Orchestra (Armstrong); Stanley Black, his piano and Orchestra (Burman); Raie da Costa (piano), with Ray Noble and his Orchestra (da Costa); Pierre Dorsey, his piano and Orchestra (Zaldivar); Carroll Gibbons (piano) and his Boy Friends (Warren); Morton Gould, his piano and Orchestra (Weill) ; George Greeley (piano) and Orchestra (Young); Joe “Mr Piano” Henderson (piano), with Bill Shepherd and his Orchestra (Kern); Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra, featuring Norrie Paramor (piano) (Paramor); Semprini (piano) and Orchestra (Addinsell); George Shearing (piano), with Billy May and his Orchestra (Segal); Lou Stein (piano), with Bill Fontaine’s Orchestra (Stein); Roger Williams, his piano and Orchestra (Craig); Dolores Ventujra (piano), with Accompaniment, directed by Ivor Slaney (Slaney); Art Waner (piano), conducting The Latin Quarter Orchestra (Kenny)
Re–issues of recordings made between 1934 and 1959. ADD
GUILD GLCD 5173 [77:24]

The piano has always been the instrument of choice when making such arrangements as these for the simple reason that most band leaders, composers, arrangers, conductors play the piano. Also, it’s a musical world in itself, and a welcome partner of an orchestra, whether light or symphonic. Here we have arrangements of well known tunes and some fine miniature piano concerto movements.

Victor Young’s Love Letters is a nicely sentimental ditty, contrasting well with the jauntiness of Francis Craig’s Near You. With Sammy Cahn and Nicholas Brodszky’s Because You're Mine we return to the sentimental mood and Paul Weston’s arrangement successfully marries Debussy and Ravel with a rich string background. Sir George Shearing and Billy May’s arrangement of Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You has a nice samba feel - cocktail lounge stuff this, with a delicate percussion presence. David Rose’s Concerto is full of sweeping strings and is most un–Concerto-like. It’s a miniature, as if it were the big tune of a larger piece, but most engaging.

Joe, Mr Piano, Henderson gives a very breezy performance of Kern’s great love song The Way You Look Tonight. Soft Sands brings us back to earth in a romantic mood and Norrie Paramor’s Silly Billy Norman is a kind of manic cousin of Edward White’s Puffin’ Billy, and a nicely rhythmic entertainment. Richard Addinsell wrote incidental music for the British premiere of Jean Genet’s play Ring Round The Moon in 1949. The Invitation Waltz has achieved a life of its own away from the theatre. It’s a very attractive piece, which receives a full, syrupy, performance here.

Zaldivar’s Carnavalito starts as a Concerto for two horns then settles into a delicate samba with jingling bells and hunting horns. Pierre Dorsey’s piano is most discreet. Winifred Atwell, on the other hand, really gives it some heft in Ken Jones and Chris Armstrong’s Vendetta. This is marvellous chase music – get the baddies stuff. Ivor Slaney’s Georgian Rumba features a piano which is half way to an harpsichord! Very attractive!

No issue in this series would be complete without either Robert Farnon or Morton Gould and this disk is blessed with arrangements by both of them. Farnon gives a perfect version of Kern’s Can I Forget You – a neglected song, worthy of revival. Gould turns his attention to Kurt Weill and one of his greatest Broadway tunes. My Ship is the pivotal song in Weill’s Lady in the Dark and Gould gives it a slightly hesitant, not quite sure where I am, arrangement. He ends in a most dreamy manner. This is a very long arrangement but Gould is a master and carries off the extended length with aplomb. I would welcome a whole album of material such as this.

Robert Docker’s Legend alternates virtuoso flourishes with a good tune, and it could almost be an intermezzo movement from a light concerto. A very laid-back version of Hoagy Carmichael’s Heart and Soul returns us to the Concerto style of piano work – Otto Cesana’s Starlight. Like the Docker, this brackets two types of music: the big tune and more reflective sections for the piano alone. Munro’s Punch and Judy Polka could almost be the kind of thing Chico Marx would have played, had he been given the chance!

Semprini’s Mediterranean Concerto is part Rachmaninov, part Falla, part Warsaw Concerto, part any number of late-romantic composers. It’s quite pretty and proves Semprini to be an expert in pastiche. I wonder if he wrote anything of more originality. It’s certainly fun, and could do well in a “Who wrote this?” type of music quiz.

Jungle Bird is another of those Caribbean hothouse pieces: lashings of colourful percussion, and a theme of eastern promise! While a Cigarette was Burning is so full of nicotine, in the sound of saxophones, I felt that I might never manage to give up smoking! Or perhaps one could use it instead of patches! A disk called Pianist in the Spotlight deserves to have a piece written by a man called Keys! And Robert Keys’s City Centre is full of hustle and bustle. Delightful.

A pleasant little potpourri of Dubin and Warren leads to a fantastic Raie Da Costa composition - At the Court of Old King Cole – where the Ray Noble Orchestra really swings. There is a wide variety of styles on this CD, perhaps more than on most issues in this series, and this is a fabulous idea for a series within a series. I look forward to more like this. Grand sound, good notes, great fun!

Bob Briggs

Grand sound, good notes, great fun!