KAEMPFERT'S LESSONS IN ARRANGING
There is no doubt that the BERT KAEMPFERT ORCHESTRA was a phenomenal success in the 60s. People, over the years, have bought its records to the tune of 200million. From 1970, until Bert Kaempfert's early tragic death in 1980, his lead trumpet player was our own TONY FISHER. It was, therefore, fitting - when it was decided to put the band back on the map - that, in agreement with Bert's daughter, Marion - Tony was the person chosen to become its leader. And what an excellent job he makes of it both with his playing and his relaxing informative chats with the audience.
I think that back in those days, my musical tastes were such that I just thought of Kaempfert's music as a pleasant commercial sound. But after this night's concert I have different ideas! As Tony Fisher points out during the evening, Kaempfert was a very clever arranger.
As we listened to the old favourites - including 'A Swingin' Safari', 'Afrikaan Beat', 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady', 'L.O.V.E.', 'Mr Sandman' and 'Strangers in the Night' - being admirably recreated by this twenty-piece orchestra and four singers, one could really appreciate how well it all blended together (with the singers being such an integral part of the arrangements). One had to appreciate that the four violinists - augmented by keyboard - were doing a fine job when one considers the original Kaempfert orchestra numbered fifty with twenty four string players. There is some unique and impressive writing for bass flute and - more unusual still - contra bass flute (an instrument closely resembling a piece of central heating equipment). ANDY FINDON and RAY SWINFIELD played these two wonderful instruments so beautifully in such numbers as 'Perdida', 'Little Brown Jug' and 'Opus 1'. What and effect! Any budding arranger who wants a lesson in the art should listen to Bert Kaempfert's 'All the things you are'. Perfect!
It takes first class musicians to get the right effects for these Kaempfert sounds and we had a first class combination this night. The distinctive clip base sound, which predominates in such numbers as 'Bye Bye Blues', was produced perfectly here by ex-Manfred Mann bassist DAVE RICHMOND. Then there was the wonderful guitar playing of JUDD PROCTOR (a first-class session musician, featured on numerous pop hits) in 'Spanish Eyes'.
Interestingly, Kaempfert only produced one swing album, although he loved the medium. And this band could swing - one notable number being when the bandleader joined forces with the superb trumpet section for Ray Anthony's 'Mr Anthony's Boogie'. We were able to enjoy Kenton, Herman, Miller and Tommy Dorsey big band numbers, all given the Kaempfert treatment. Tony Fisher's playing was great throughout - I especially loved his expressive playing in 'Close Enough for Love'.
As I said earlier, Kaempfert's arrangements are so much about getting the balance of sound right and all credit should go to the sound engineer on this evening for doing just that.
Well, obviously, I was completely won over by the end of this most enjoyable and exhilarating evening. What a pity people do not have the opportunity to listen to more music like this. Tony Fisher himself plays for the 'Parkinson' show on BBCtv every week but - as he said - why can't we hear and see more live musicians playing live music on our television screens?