Robert Farnon & His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
There can’t be many arrangements that have such a variety of musical nuts and bolts - Canadian Caravan, “James Bond”, “Maytime in Mayfair”, Count Basie, Fred Astaire and Gilbert and Sullivan. The opening alone is one of the most thrilling in music taking full advantage of the arrival of stereo. You’ve never heard strings, brass and woodwind like it. Purists of comic opera were not exactly pleased but American audiences enjoyed Mike Todd’s “The Hot Mikado”, his first Broadway musical in 1939.
And then the orchestra swings like the clappers in a way that the original “Mikado” never did and never will again. A toe-tapping rhythm grabs you everytime and instantly brings back Gilbert’s lyrics in a most unexpected setting. And talking of feet, we’re treated to a dazzling display of ‘Astaires’s wares’ after which the ghost of Count Basie bounces in. (I once met Robert Farnon at a 1957 Basie concert in which he described the sound as “a shot in the arm!”).
The piece gradually builds up to a terrific climax influenced by the orchestra long considered one of the world’s best swing bands Count Basie, on a par with Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford. The Farnon sound still bears the stamp of Kansas City. The brass belts away with the strings having the final say.
Let’s remind ourselves of those clever catchy words we heard in our youth.
My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time-
To let the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
A source of innocent merriment,
Of innocent merriment.
My Object all Sublime (Gilbert & Sullivan)
Jack Saunders Orchestra (actually Robert Farnon’s Orchestra)
“A Box of Light Musical Allsorts”
Golden Age of Light Music
Guild Records GLCD 5157
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