The Pianist In The Spotlight
LIGHT MUSIC CDs DECEMBER 2010
GUILD LIGHT MUSIC GLCD5173
The Pianist In The Spotlight
1 Love Letters (Victor Young, arr. George Greeley)
GEORGE GREELEY, Piano and Orchestra
Warner Bros WS 1319 1959
2 Near You (Francis Craig)
ROGER WILLIAMS, HIS PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
London HA-R 2155 1958
3 Because You’re Mine (Sammy Cahn; Nicholas Brodszky, arr. Paul Weston)
PAUL WESTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Columbia CS 8042 1958
4 Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You (Marvin Fisher; Jack Segal, arr. George Shearing and Billy May)
GEORGE SHEARING, Piano with BILLY MAY AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Capitol T 858 1957
5 Concerto (David Rose)
DAVID ROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA with DON FERRIS, Piano
MGM SE 3748 1959
6 The Way You Look Tonight (from film "Swing Time") (Jerome Kern)
JOE "Mr Piano" HENDERSON, Piano with BILL SHEPHERD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Pye NSPL 83006 1959
7 Soft Sands (Lou Stein)
LOU STEIN, PIANO - with BILL FONTAINE’S ORCHESTRA
London HLZ 8419 1957
8 Silly Billy (Norman [Norrie] William Paramor)
NORRIE PARAMOR AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring NORRIE PARAMOR, Piano
Columbia DB 4004 1957
9 Invitation Waltz (from "Ring Round The Moon") (Richard Addinsell)
SEMPRINI, Piano and Orchestra
HMV POP 384 1957
10 Carnavalito (Edmundo Porteno Zaldivar)
PIERRE DORSEY, HIS PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
Polygon P 1083 1953
11 Vendetta (Ken Jones; Chris Armstrong, better known as Ray Martin)
WINIFRED ATWELL, Piano with CYRIL ORNADEL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Philips PB 332 1954
12 Georgian Rumba (Ivor Slaney)
DOLORES VENTURA, Piano – with Accompaniment Directed by IVOR SLANEY
Parlophone R 4160 1956
13 Can I Forget You (Jerome Kern, arr. Robert Farnon)
ROBERT FARNON AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring BILLMcGUFFIE, Piano
Decca LK 4083 1954
14 My Ship (from "Lady In The Dark") (Kurt Weill, arr. Morton Gould)
MORTON GOULD, Piano, AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Columbia ML 4657 1953
15 Legend (Robert Docker)
THE MELACHRINO ORCHESTRA Conducted by GEORGE MELACHRINO featuring WILLIAM HILL-BOWEN, Piano
HMV C 4038 1950
16 Heart And Soul (Hoagy Carmichael)
ROBERTO INGLEZ AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Parlophone R 3640 1953
17 Starlight (Otto Cesana)
OTTO CESANA AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring BERNIE LEIGHTON, Piano
Columbia CL 631 1955
18 Punch And Judy Polka (Ronald George Munro)
BILLY MAYERL RHYTHM ENSEMBLE
Parlophone F 2449 1951
19 Mediterranean Concerto (Alberto Fernando Riccardo Semprini)
SIDNEY TORCH AND HIS ORCHESTRA(pianist uncredited on disc label)
R 3313 1950
20 Jungle Bird (Maurice Burman, arr. Stanley Black)
STANLEY BLACK, HIS PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
Decca LF 1055 1951
21 While A Cigarette Was Burning (Charles F. Kenny; Nick A. Kenny)
ART WANER Conducting THE LATIN QUARTER ORCHESTRA
MGM D 124 1954
22 City Centre (Robert Keys)
PALL MALL REVELLERS
Bosworth BC 1080 1939
23 "Mr. Dodd Takes The Air" – Film Selection Am I In Love, Remember Me (Al Dubin; Harry Warren)
CARROLL GIBBONS, piano - AND HIS BOY FRIENDS
Columbia FB 1870 1938
24 At The Court Of Old King Cole (Raie Da Costa)
RAIE DA COSTA, Piano, with RAY NOBLE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
HMV B 6496 1934
Stereo: tracks 1, 3, 4, 5 & 6 ; other tracks mono.
In this collection it is the turn of pianists to take centre stage. Some of them will be familiar as famous solo artists, while others fronted their own groups or small ensembles which bear their name. Occasionally there are the unsung heroes whose work in orchestras often goes unnoticed, although they would surely be missed if they suddenly disappeared.
George Greeley (born Georgio Guariglia, 1917-2007) was an American pianist, conductor and composer who worked extensively in films and television, and made numerous recordings – often accompanying leading artists such as Gordon MacRae, Jane Powell and Jane Froman. During his early career he arranged for popular bandleaders such as Tommy Dorsey. In the 1950s he was a staff pianist at Columbia Pictures, and received particular praise for his work on "On The Waterfront" (1954) and "The Eddy Duchin Story" (1956). In later years he performed as piano soloist and guest conductor with leading orchestras in many countries.
Roger Williams (born Louis Weertz, 1924) is known in his native USA as "The Pianist To The Presidents", because he has been invited so many times to perform at the White House. Undoubtedly he is one of the most popular pianists of his generation, having achieved many hit records, including Near You - the choice for his first appearance on a Guild CD.
Paul Weston (born Paul Wetstein 1912-1996) was originally a pianist, although his particular favourites were saxes and clarinets. When recovering from an accident he was unable to perform so he tried arranging, which proved to be the spur for his future career fronting a world famous orchestra. Because You’re Mine allows us to hear his mastery of the keyboard. In 1971 the Trustees of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave its Trustees Award to Paul Weston.
If anyone deserves to be called a ‘Living Legend’ it is surely George Shearing (b. 1919), who became ‘Sir George’ in 2007 when he received his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. His unique style of playing has won him countless friends and admirers for over half a century, and he has worked with just about everyone who matters in show business. Choosing a suitable title for his first appearance on Guild was made relatively easy when he teamed up with Billy May (1916-2004) – who showed that he could write just as well for strings as for the big band style that made him famous.
David Rose (1910-1990) needs no introduction to regular Guild Light Music friends. Born in London, his family moved to Chicago in the USA when he was four, and during his prolific career he became one of the biggest names in radio, films, television and – of course – records. Holiday For Strings (on Guild GLCD5120) gave his career a sudden boost in the early 1940s, and it proved to be one of the first of a string of memorable compositions that kept flowing from his fertile inspiration. Concerto is perhaps more laid back than many of them, but its glorious harmonies provide the perfect backdrop to the piano of Don Ferris. Composer and pianist Ferris (born Dominic Anthony Frissore, 1919-2006) served in the US Army during World War II, and was a staff organist in the Armed Forces Radio Service where he would have come into contact with Sgt. David Rose. After working for two years as a staff pianist in film studios, Ferris became pianist for the David Rose Orchestra in 1946.
Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson (born in Glasgow, 1920-1980) was a professional dance band pianist at the age of fifteen. During the 1950s he became well-known in Britain, partly due to his friendship with singer Petula Clark, whom he had first met in 1947 at the Peter Maurice music publishers. His biggest hit was his own composition Trudie in 1957, which won him an Ivor Novello Award.
Lou Stein (1922-2002) was an American jazz pianist whose credentials included working with the likes of Glenn Miller, Percy Faith, Jackie Gleason and Benny Goodman – among many other famous names in jazz and popular music. His own melody Soft Sands (on this CD) also received the honour of a recording by Oscar Peterson.
Londoner Norman William (Norrie) Paramor (1914-1979) tended to be better known by the public for his work with pop stars on EMI’s Columbia label, but he also made numerous instrumental recordings and wrote several catchy numbers that greatly appealed, such as his own Silly Billy.
Although his numerous British fans considered him to be Italian, the pianist and composer Semprini was actually born in Bath, Somerset, where his Italian parents named him Alberto Fernando Riccardo Semprini (1908-1990). No doubt his attractive accent was partly due to the time he spent studying music at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, from which he graduated in 1928. He was a frequent broadcaster, and he used his own composition Mediterranean Concerto as his theme. Surprisingly the Sidney Torch (1908-1990) recording heard on this CD did not mention the name of the pianist on the disc label. At that time Torch’s pianist was often Edward Rubach, and one would have expected him to be credited. This leads to speculation that the composer may have been at the keyboard, or maybe even Sidney Torch himself who was a piano virtuoso as well as a famous organist..
Pierre Dorsey joins our roster of pianists in the catchy novelty Carnavalito. He made a few recordings in the 1950s, but his career does not seem to have lasted.
Among the most successful in terms of hit records was Winifred Atwell (born Una Winifred Atwell,1914-1983) who hailed from the West Indies. During her variety appearances she performed first on a traditional grand piano, then her ‘other’ piano (discovered in a London junk shop) was wheeled on stage allowing her to play the boogie woogie and ragtime tunes that became her trademark. But she was also an accomplished concert pianist, and had studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music where she became the first female pianist to be awarded the Academy’s top grades. In Vendetta she is backed by Cyril Ornadel (b. 1924) and his Orchestra reprising their previous contribution to a Guild CD (Moonlight Fiesta on GLCD5111). Ornadel rose to prominence in Britain during the 1950s, largely due to his weekly appearances conducting the orchestra for the popular television series "Sunday Night at the London Palladium".
Dolores Ventura enjoyed a busy performing and recording career in Britain during the 1950s, sometimes with an orchestra conducted by her husband Ivor Slaney (1921-1998). He was also a successful composer and a fine oboe player, regularly doing session work under top conductors such as Robert Farnon. Four of Slaney’s accomplishments come together in Georgian Rumba: firstly the pianist is his wife; secondly he composed the melody; thirdly he can be heard on oboe – and on top of all that he conducts his orchestra. His previous compositions featured in Guild are Country Canter (GLCD5164), Donkey Doodle (GLCD5131) and The Show Goes On (GLGD5149). His more serious works include a Brazilian Suite and an Oboe Concerto.
William [Bill] McGuffie (1927-1987) is remembered by most music lovers as a fine pianist, often leaning towards jazz, although his occasional work in films proved that he was also a talented composer. His success is all the more impressive, when you consider that the third finger of his right hand was amputated in childhood following an accident. He never let this become a handicap, and in later life he founded his own charity The Niner Club (named after his number of fingers) which raised money for autistic children. During his long career he was the pianist of choice for many leading conductors, and Robert Farnon (1917-2005) was no exception – creating a special arrangement of Can I Forget You to showcase his talents.
Morton Gould (1913-1996) became one of the most highly respected American composers, and his distinguished career was crowned with a Pulitzer Prize (for his Stringmusic, commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich for the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington) just a year before his death at the age of 82. He generally arranged the works he conducted in the concert hall and on records, and his brilliance as a sensitive pianist shines through every bar of the Kurt Weill classic My Ship. From 1986 to 1994 Gould was President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Robert Docker (1918-1992) became known to the British public through his many broadcasts as a pianist, but he was also a prolific arranger and composer. His Legend entered the repertoire of many light orchestras, and the George Melachrino (1909-1965) version for HMV was regarded by many as the definitive version.
Roberto Inglez was actually a Scotsman called Robert Inglis (1919-1974) who specialised in Latin American music. He built up a loyal following through his work in leading London West End clubs and his frequent BBC broadcasts.
Italian born Otto Cesana (1899-1980) spent much of his early career in California where he lived from 1908 to 1930. His piano studies commenced at the age of ten, and he became an accomplished organist; he also learned about orchestration and harmony which he put to good use working in radio and Hollywood film studios. Although his recorded output was not large compared with some of his contemporaries, he usually conducted his own compositions which were of a consistently high standard – as already illustrated on several previous Guild Light Music CDs. The pianist in Starlight is Bernie Leighton (1921-1994), mainly recognised as a jazz player who worked with Percy Faith and numerous singers, bands and orchestras from the late 1930s into the 1980s.
Billy Joseph Mayerl (1902-1959) was a Londoner whose expertise on the piano gained him international recognition. Although perhaps best-known for his own cameos (often syncopated), during his regular broadcasts he played numbers by many fellow composers - such as Punch And Judy Polka by Ronald George Munro (better known as Ronnie, 1807-1989). In an extremely varied career, Munro had led a dance band during the twenties and thirties, becoming the first conductor of the Scottish Variety Orchestra when it was established by the BBC in 1940. Later he formed his own light orchestra for radio in the fifties, concluding his BBC career with a sextet which he led between 1962 and 1967. When radio broadcasts of live music in Britain dried up, he moved to South Africa, where he reformed his orchestra, subsequently becoming Head of Light Music for S.A.B.C.
Stanley Black (born Solomon Schwartz 1913-2002) was successful in many areas of music during his long career which began in his teens. From playing piano in Harry Roy’s dance band he became keen on Latin-American music, and later recorded many fine light orchestral albums.
Pianist Art Waner conducted the orchestra at the famous Latin Quarter nightclub, located at 159 Palm Island Drive, Miami Beach. From the 1940s into the 1960s this was a Mecca for top entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett performing for winter crowds of tourists wishing to escape to the Florida sunshine.
City Centre is an early composition by Robert Keys (1914-1999), who went on to become a repetiteur then assistant head of the music staff at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which he joined in 1953. He was widely respected in the profession and a key back-room figure in helping turn Covent Garden into a house of international standing. Previously he had worked with Benjamin Britten at his English Opera Group in Aldeburgh. Such was his reputation that he received many invitations to work on special projects overseas. In retirement he continued to coach young singers, and was secretary of the Robert Stolz Society.
Although he was born in Clinton, Massachusetts, the pianist and composer Carroll Gibbons (1903-1954) made his career mainly in England, which apparently impressed him while studying at the Royal Academy of Music in his late teens. He became associated with the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, but briefly returned to the USA in 1931 where he spent two years with MGM in Hollywood. One of his most popular compositions was Garden In The Rain (Ray Martin’s version is on Guild GLCD5135) which received the accolade of a recording by Frank Sinatra with the Robert Farnon Orchestra in 1962.
The daughter of Portuguese parents, Raie Da Costa (1905-1934) was born in Cape Town, where she studied dancing and music. She wanted to become a ballerina, but an accident forced her to forget this childhood ambition so she concentrated on the piano. In 1924 her mother brought her from South Africa to London, but initially it was hard to get classical engagements. A wise change of career found her concentrating on rhythmic popular numbers, and a recording contract was secured in 1928. From then on she was always busy with broadcasting, stage shows and, of course, records. She was considered by many to be one of the most talented pianists of the time, with an incredible left-hand technique. Sadly she died at the young age of 29 from a cruel illness in 1934, not long after she had recorded her own composition At The Court Of Old King Cole which is the final track in this collection.