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Debroy Somers and his band.

Night Time Brings Dreams Of You

LIVING ERA CD AJA 5616 [76.21]



1. Carolina Moon
2. Dixieland
3. Doll Dance
4. Elizabeth
5. Goodnight Lovely Little Lady
6. Irving Berlin Waltz Songs
7. Isn't It Romantic
8. Lover
9. Lucky Break
10. Mr And Mrs Is The Name
11. My Heart's To Let
12. Night Time Brings Sweet Dreams Of You
13. Night When Love Was Born
14. Peanut Vendor
15. Red Roofed Chalet
16. Ro Ro Rolling Along
17. She Wore A little Jacket Of Blue
18. Tell Me I'm Forgiven
19. There's A New World
20. They All Start Whistling Mary
21. West End Nights
22. Stop Press
rec. 1927-36

Debroy Somers, elegant, suave and a multi-instrumentalist, had an important career in and out of the recording studios. He made a few appearances on film and was a long standing staff arranger, as well as having been in on the ground floor when English Vocalion opened for business just after the First World War. But he will be best remembered for his band, a debonair if rather conventional big outfit that recorded prolifically.

There weren’t any star names in the band and it didn’t play jazz or much jazz-influenced music. That said Jock Fleming was the trombonist and he was a fine player well remembered by admirers of British dance band brass players of the 1920s and 1930s. And there was the very young violinist Jean Pougnet, then a jobbing freelancer who was also doing his stints with string quartets; he formed part of the two-man violin section on some of these tracks. Later on he formed part of the greatest ever British classical string trio and made many memorable recordings as a classical player.

But individual brilliance wasn’t really part of the equation for a Somers band. Film and show tunes were a staple, medleys and Glamorous Nights numbers, all served up with rather two-beat old fashioned (even then I suspect) arrangements. Staid, perhaps, and sometimes rather corny. Some of the period vocals are skin crawlingly awful – and the xylophone and other percussive moments lack the varnish of contemporary bands. But more than most Somers insisted on the string section taking an independent sectional part in arrangements and he was ever alert as to new changes in dance rhythms and voguish new pieces. We hear The Peanut Vendor for example, though admittedly he seems to have come from Shoreditch rather than anywhere exotic, if the East End vocals are anything to go by. Talking of which, though Sam Costa turns up, and though Webster Booth appears in West End Nights – briefly – there were no singers to compare with Denny Dennis or Sam Browne or Al Bowlly. Dan Donovan is really not among the elect. Still, the rumba is well catered for and the salutes to Richard Rogers’s songs are well merited.

Transfers are good as are the sleeve notes. If you want a nostalgic slice of show band tunes then Debroy Somers served up the fare, though be prepared for some jellied eels alongside the Hors d’oeuvres.

Jonathan Woolf


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