Devonport Theatre, Stockport

Faultless and back in all its former glory

ONE of the main dangers of forming a ghost outfit of a famous orchestra and, more importantly its sound, is that people always remember the original and tend to regard with apprehension and suspicion those who tread in its footsteps - however good the musicians may be and however laudable their intentions.

By the same token there are those who, in such cases, regard impersonation as being the sincerest form of flattery.

Last night's concert, however, silenced those sceptics who believed that the Kaempfert sound had gone for ever. Thanks to the late leader's daughter, Marion, it has not; due to her efforts that marvellous and distinctive wonderland-by-night style has been rejuvenated and is back on the road as an ongoing project.

This 24-piece all-British orchestra, plus singers, is now a permanent re-creation, under the direction of Bert's former lead trumpeter, Levenshulme-born Tony Fisher, and using all the original arrangements. Last night that sound was there for all to hear and, most importantly, to judge.

The orchestra certainly passed the acid test and its reception by the audience was proof positive that neither Marion nor Tony had erred in their undertaking. This, indeed, was the Kaempfert style reborn, and it was evident from the first few bars of "Swingin' Safari", which paved the way for Bert's other top sellers, including "Remember When", "Afrikan Beat", "Bye Bye Blues", and of course, his biggest seller, "Strangers in the Night".

But, apart from the faultless style and the faithfully reproduced sound, in all its former glory, this concert also provided an insight into another facet which made the unique orchestra tick - the ability to produce a big-band sound from within the ranks of the string-augmented orchestra.


This, again, was like a breath of fresh air, as a 16-piece unit of the ensemble paid its own tributes to Ray Anthony, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie respectively, with "Mr Anthony's Boogey", "Jumpin at the Woodside", "Take the A Train", and "Two o'clock Jump".

These were creditable diversions, but even then the original Kaempfert arrangements were employed to add to this dimension. After that it was a return to the original format, encompassing "Snowbird", "Mr Sandman", and a beautiful rendition of "Three o'clock in the Morning".

It is fair comment to say that no one would have complained if this marvellous orchestra had indeed played until that particular hour. For this was a concert which most did not want to end.


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