The Bert Kaempfert Orchestra (Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham)
Concert by very best in the business
THE more I see of this ultra-professional, all-British orchestra, the more I am convinced that it is as near to perfection as it was when the maestro was alive, and that comparisons with that other musical institution, James Last, are impossible to rule out.
Although now under the direction of the late Mr Kaempfert's lead trumpeter, Manchester-born Tony Fisher, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as a ghost outfit.
True, the band, like Last's, is comprised of British musicians who are the very best in the business; but more important in this instance are the original arrangements which it uses and which made it so instantly recognisable.
In last night's programme, there were no ifs or buts, as the aficionados found right from the start, with two of the orchestra's biggest hits, "Swingin' Safari" and "Wonderland By Night".
After that, the mood was set for the many Kaempfert variants to be illustrated, such as his arrangement for a never-to-be-recorded (by him) version of Ray Anthony's "Mr Anthony's Boogie", a monumental scoring of the Beatles' "Something", and probably the most beautiful and finest-ever arrangement of "I Cover the Waterfront" that it is possible to hear.
In his programme, Tony Fisher expertly included many diversions from the usual Kaempfert format - but still using his arrangements. Naturally, there were more of the international hits, including "Remember When", "Bye, Bye Blues" and, of course, "Strangers in the Night".
But the main segment came in a tribute to the swing-band era, as the 25-piece orchestra revelled in "Airmail Special", "Jumpin' At the Woodside", "Take the A Train", "Two o' Clock Jump", "Tuxedo Junction"(with strings!) and "Apple Honey".
On the face of it, Kaempfert's scoring versatility knew no bounds, and the evidence was there for all to see and hear. Now, with this expertly-crafted orchestra, Tony Fisher is certainly paying his former employer the highest tribute possible.