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Philip L. Scowcroft

(b March 26, 1874; d Marlow, Bucks., Dec 14, 1948). English composer and conductor. He studied composition at the GSM with MacCunn and then pursued a career in London's West End, latterly as a musical director, especially at the Playhouse, Winter Garden, Alhambra, Shaftesbury and Adelphi theatres. He subsequently worked for the BBC from 1926 to 1930. Drawing on his theatrical background he composed incidental music and also operettas, of which The King's Bride, Violette and especially the well-characterized Medorah achieved modest success.

He was also adept at writing colourful, attractively scored and melodious suites and single movements. Some of these showed a fondness for Ireland, the country which also inspired his Overture to an Irish Comedy. Others sought to explore fresh ideas in the light concert suite, a common genre in the first half of the 20th century, as in his Mediterranean Suite (three dance movements representing Spain, Italy and France) and ...

Article

Lise Waxer

(b Santa Clara, Feb 11, 1893; d Havana, Jan 20, 1943). Cuban pianist and bandleader. As the leader of the Havana Casino Orchestra he is best known for having launched the El manicero (‘Peanut Vendor’) craze in the United States after his band performed this number at New York’s Palace Theater on 26 April 1930. Written by Moises Simon, the song became an instant hit, and within a year popular jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington had recorded versions of the tune. Expanding upon the traditional Cuban conjunto (sextet or septet), Azpiazú’s band was a 14-piece dance orchestra with trumpets, saxophones, trombone, tuba, piano, bass and Cuban percussion. Although Latin bands already existed in New York, his was the first group to be successful with the non-Latino public, helping to catalyze the rhumba dance craze that lasted throughout the decade. The Havana Casino Orchestra recorded popular versions of other tunes such as ...

Article

Gerard Béhague

(Evangelista)

(b Ubá, Nov 7, 1903; d Rio de Janeiro, Feb 9, 1964). Brazilian composer and conductor. In 1920 he moved to Rio de Janeiro where he developed his career, first as a pianist in dance bands and cinemas, then as a composer of pieces for musical theatre, as a radio programmer and announcer, and later as a television programmer. He also composed the sound tracks for various films, especially Walt Disney’s The Three Caballeros (‘Você já foi à Bahia?’), for which he received a diploma from the Hollywood Academy of Cinematographic Sciences and Arts. In 1955, the Brazilian government bestowed upon him, together with Villa-Lobos, the National Order of Merit.

Barroso greatly contributed to the establishment of the classic urban samba in the 1930s. Among the over 160 sambas that he wrote, those of the 1930s and 40s have remained the most popular. Such pieces as Faceira (...

Article

Alyn Shipton

(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....

Article

Karen Monson

[Rosenbaum, Borge]

(b Copenhagen, Jan 3, 1909; d Greenwich, CT, Dec 23, 2000). American pianist, musical humorist and conductor of Danish birth. After early training with his father, he gave a piano recital at the age of eight in Copenhagen, which won for him a scholarship to the conservatory; he later studied with Frederic Lamond and Egon Petri in Berlin. He performed in amateur musical revues in Copenhagen, but his satires of Hitler placed him in danger and he fled, first to Sweden and then to the USA, where he later became a citizen. In New York in 1940 he began regularly to appear on Bing Crosby’s ‘Kraft Music Hall’ radio series, which led to a radio show of his own. Starting in the autumn of 1953 he gave nearly 850 daily recitals under the title ‘Comedy in Music’ at the Golden Theater on Broadway. He toured in many parts of the world and appeared widely on radio and television and in films. His routines (which were partly improvised) were a mixture of verbal and musical humour, delivered at the piano; though his comic reputation was based on his continually forestalling and interrupting his own playing, he was an accomplished performer, as his elaborate musical jokes (such as the composite piano concerto consisting of well-known passages from the repertory skilfully run together) demonstrated....

Article

Jon Alan Conrad

(b Flint, MI, March 30, 1933). American orchestrator, conductor and composer. He studied music at Michigan State University and then at the New England Conservatory, which included conducting with Neel and Stokowski, and the double bass. The latter led to performing engagements with numerous orchestras; from 1961 to 1967 he also conducted, particularly ballet orchestras. At this time he began conducting tours and concerts of musicals, and in the 1970s his orchestrations for musicals were first heard. These included orchestrations reconciling a variety of sources with the requirements for modern revivals or compilations (as with Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Carousel, Show Boat, and his contributions to the restoration of the Gershwins’ Strike up the Band). He has composed incidental music, arranged for television and film, provided arrangements for recording (for Mandy Patinkin, Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade), and written songs and musicals, as well as concert and dance works. Additionally he has provided re-creations of Prokofiev’s film music (...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

Alyn Shipton

[William]

(b London, May 6, 1899; d Wembley, March 25, 1969). English bandleader, drummer and entrepreneur. His father was a bandmaster and he was a chorister at St Margaret’s, Westminster, before joining the 2nd Battalion, City of London Regiment as a drummer boy. Cotton was later commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps. From 1922 he worked in dance bands in London and Brighton and co-led the San Prado Band at the 1924 Wembley British Empire Exhibition. He made his first broadcast the same year. He formed his own London Savannah band, playing first in Brighton and later in Southport (from 1925), and by acquiring music for US dances from liners docking in Liverpool, he helped introduce such music to Britain, including the Black Bottom. The band with which he played at the Astoria Hotel, London (1927), contained a nucleus of musicians (most notably the pianist Clem Bernard) who stayed with him for many of his subsequent performances, at Ciro’s club in London and Paris (...

Article

Raoul F. Camus

(b Naples, Italy, June 21, 1871; d New York, Aug 15, 1952). American conductor, impresario, and composer of Italian origin. He studied music at the conservatory in Naples, and by the age of 17 was conductor of the city’s municipal band. He left this position after eight years to play trombone in another band during its American tour. Encouraged by the wealth of performing opportunities in the USA, he recruited 40 musicians during a trip to Italy in 1902, and then traveled with them to New York, where the band’s opening concert was well received. In the next few years he toured the USA and Canada. He appeared on the Chautauqua circuit from 1910 to 1916. While pursuing his band activities, he organized an opera company in 1918 that continued for five years. The Depression brought about a decline in professional bands, and in 1936 he became conductor of the New York City Symphonic Orchestra, formed under the auspices of the WPA. A year later he became bandmaster of the New York State Symphonic Band, also a WPA group. In ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Cugat Mingall de Brú y Denolfeo, Francisco de Asís Javier]

(b Gerona, Jan 1, 1900; d Barcelona, Oct 27, 1990). Spanish bandleader, violinist and arranger, active in America. Cugat’s family moved to Cuba when he was five. A child prodigy, he was playing the violin in Havana cafés by the age of seven or eight, and later studied formally in Berlin and peformed with the Berlin PO. He arrived in New York City in 1921 and formed a tango orchestra, and then moved to Hollywood, taking up a life-long hobby as caricaturist before returning to New York with a contract at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1930. Despite his European origins, Cugat became the most commercially famous name in Latin music during the 1930s and 40s, especially among non-Latino North Americans, and his Latin orchestra remained resident at the Waldorf Astoria through the next decade.

Cugat did not pretend to perform authentic Latin American music, yet his lush orchestral arrangements helped popularize Cuban and other Latin American sounds in mainstream North America, earning him the title of the ‘King of the Rhumba’. Among his most famous recordings are ...