A direct descendant of the glamourous, string-laden bands ...

It is probably true to say that the Bert Kaempfert Orchestra is a direct descendant - albeit by way of Germany - of the glamorous, string-laden bands of the forties led by the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw. Kaempfert passed away in 1980 but in recent times British trumpeter Tony Fisher has re-formed the band and, with the approval of the Kaempfert estate, performs from the original scores.

The Kaempfert band is unusual in that it consists of six sections made up of 22 musicians. As well as reeds, brass and rhythm, it also includes a string section and four vocalists who, for the most part, are used in an instrumental context.

Such a line-up offers considerable musical scope. This was well demonstrated on It Makes No Difference and Wonderland by Night, two of the earlier numbers played by the band, which skilfully blended the sections to produce the famous Kaempfert sound.

Kaempfert was a very talented arranger and with such a large orchestra at his disposal he wrote many fine scores which drew on the ensemble's full potential. I Cover the Waterfront and The Way We Were were two memorable performances at the Philharmonic Hall which highlighted superbly the tonal and harmonic capabilities of the band. The latter number also included an elegant trombone solo from Cliff Hardie.

As well as smooth ballads, the band was no slouch when it came to reprising such swing era classics as Airmail Special, Opus One and Jumpin' at the Woodside. On these and several other flagwavers it proved it could swing with the best of them.

Also in an up-tempo vein was a well-drilled version of Mr Anthony's Boogie, which spotlighted trumpeter Henry Lowther, and Mr Sandman, on which the reed section forsook their saxophones for flutes. The work of the leader must not be overlooked, and as well as his concise, informative introductions, Fishers' lyrical trumpet and flugel playing was another of the evening's delights.

Stan Woolley

back to reviews