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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



THE ASPIDISTRA
DRAWING ROOM ORCHESTRA

Beguine and Bugatti Step

(No number)

 

 

  1. Hampden Roar (F. Hartley) [2:36]

  2. Stringing Along (E. Tower) [3:22]

  3. Melodie Beguine (J. Olan) [3:25]

  4. At the Codfish Ball (L. Pollack) [2:33]

  5. Thistledown Entr’acte No.1 (H. Wood) [3:09]

  6. Kitchen Rag (F. Baron) [2:58]

  7. Tell Me Again (W. Grosz) [3:30]

  8. The Bugatti Step (J. Jezek) [3:19]

  9. April Message (C. Ancliffe) [3:46]

  10. Whistling Rufus (K. Mills) [3:13]

  11. I Never Knew How Wonderful You Were (J. Burke) [3:17]

  12. Puszta Fox (M. Erdelyi) [3:30]

  13. La Patrouillette (V. Sumkai) [3:44]

  14. Ich Brauche keine Milionen (P. Kreuder) [2:50]

  15. Drifting and Dreaming (R. van Alstyne / E. Schmidt) [2:59]

  16. Precision (C. Dumont) [3:20]

  17. Love’s Awakening (A. Ketelbey) [2:56]

  18. Blue Tango (L. Anderson) [1:50]

  19. I’ve Joined the Squirrel Family (H. Trix) [3:14]

  20. Moomin (R. Farnon) [2:27]

  21. Launische Geige (H. Zander) [2:48]


Nick Hugh, Violin

Andrew Pearce, Violin

Liz Menezes, Violin/Voice

Zoltan Abbott, Viola

Kate Rattenbury, Cello

Rosi Ward, Piano

Adam Bakker, Oboe/Cor Anglais

Des Benton, Flute

Camilla Cutts, Voice


The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra is a talented ensemble that specializes in performing rare and seldom-heard gems from the golden age of light music, often called “Palm Court Music” or “Salon Music”. The group has been together since 1997 and has developed a loyal following, particularly for their live concerts. Their annual May Bank Holiday Concert each spring is an eagerly-awaited event for light music aficionados. This album is their fifth, following their last release, “Happy Frog and Hot Canary”, recorded in 2010.

Sixteen selections on this disc are instrumentals. The title number, The Bugatti Step is a lively 1930 piano rag written by Czech composer Jaroslav Jezek, and is presented with a fine arrangement featuring pianist Rosi Ward. Love’s Awakening, composed in 1924 by pianist and conductor Albert Ketelbey, was written for Bosworth’s Loose Leaf Film-Play Music Series, a collection of short pieces to be played by the pit orchestra for silent films. Aspidistra performs the piece with grace and feeling, fitting the mood suggested “for love scenes and sentimental situations” as originally noted in Bosworth’s song book. Thistledown Entr’acte No. 1, composed by Haydn Wood in 1926, was originally written as a piano solo. Here it gets a delicate arrangement for ensemble, with the four strings providing a harmonious and nimble elegance. Rosi Ward on piano provides the bass and tempo for each number and is marvelously consistent. Much of the fine orchestrations can be credited to the excellent arrangements by Adam Bakker, who arranged nine of the tunes. Liz Menezes arranged several of the vocal numbers, and they are interesting as well. Liz and Camilla Cutts provide the vocals for five songs, and their harmonies are joyful and exuberant, with plenty of vibrato. The jaunty tune At the Codfish Ball first appeared in the 1936 film Captain January starring Shirley Temple, and showcases some fun two-part harmony. Another novelty song, I’ve Joined the Squirrel Family, written in 1916 by Helen Trix, is similar in style, a bouncy vocal number supported by piano and lively accompaniment by the cast.

This music was recorded on June 13-14, 2015 at Red Gables recording studio, Greenford, Middlesex. Paul Nickson was the sound technician for this project. The liner notes are included in an 8-page booklet, with background information about the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra and the composers on this disc, as well as information about their four previous releases. This disc is a cheerful addition to any light music collection.

Bruce McCollum



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