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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

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 ...

Article

Simon Collier

(b Buenos Aires, Dec 11, 1899; d Mar del Plata, Mar 11, 1980). Argentine tango violinist, bandleader and composer. The son of an Italian immigrant proprietor of a private conservatory in Buenos Aires, he served his apprenticeship in tango bands such as those of Eduardo Arolas (1918–19) and Osvaldo Fresedo (1919–20). In 1923 he formed his first sextet, which included his brothers Francisco (piano) and Emilio (second violin). The band remained a sextet until 1930, after which it enlarged to between 10 and 14 instrumentalists; and this remained its standard size until De Caro’s retirement (1954). One of the best-loved dance bands of the tango’s ‘Golden Age’ (1920–50), it made successful trips to Brazil (1927), Italy and France (1931) and Chile (1937). With its clarity, meticulous phrasing, careful instrumental balance and sophisticated arrangements, it pioneered the ‘evolutionist’ trend in tango music, contrasting with the ‘traditionalist’ tendency favoured by more conservative bandleaders. Like his brother Francisco, De Caro was an expert arranger and composer who made notable contributions to the tango repertory. His autobiography was published as ...

Article

Walter Starkie

revised by Charles Fox and Alyn Shipton

[Federico]

(b Manila, Dec 12, 1907; d Manila, Jan 16, 1979). Filipino bandleader, pianist, conductor and composer of Spanish parentage. He studied at the Madrid Conservatory, with, among others, Trago and Perez Casas. In 1921 he went to England for two years' study at St Joseph's College, London, and later entered Stanford University, California, where his parents intended him to study law. However, under the influence of Bloch, with whom he had composition lessons, he left in 1926 to give his attention to music. At this point his fascination for jazz and dance music began, and he led the Stanford University Band for a season at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, while continuing formal composition studies. After cutting his first discs with his Cinderella Roof Orchestra in Hollywood, he returned to England to read law at Cambridge University (where his brother, the saxophonist Manuel (Lizz) Elizalde, was also a student) in ...

Article

Alyn Shipton

[‘Gibby’]

(b Clinton, MA, Jan 4, 1903; d London, May 10, 1954). American pianist, bandleader and composer, active in Britain. He played the piano as a child, appearing in public aged ten, and going on to attend the New England Conservatory. In 1924 he came to Britain to study the piano at the RAM, but he soon took up an alternative career in dance music, playing with the Boston Orchestra at the Berkeley Hotel. He led the Sylvians at the Savoy in 1926, taking over leadership of the hotel’s popular Orpheans orchestra from Debroy Somers in 1927, but disbanding it the following year. He became a musical director for the Gramophone Company (1928–9), for whom he led the New Mayfair Orchestra, recording prolifically and providing accompaniments for almost all the popular singers and variety turns recorded by the company. In 1929 he worked for the British and Dominion Film Company as a musical director, spending most of ...

Article

(b London, March 7, 1908; d Gosport, Aug 3, 1998). English jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader. He performed and recorded with the dance bands of Billy Cotton (1929–33), Roy Fox (1931–2), Ray Noble (1931, 1933–4) and Lew Stone (1932–5); Georgia on my mind (1932), recorded with Fox, is a good example of his playing and singing and became extremely popular. From 1932 he worked as a leader in a style heavily influenced by that of Louis Armstrong; his band, the Georgians (1934–9), included his brother Bruts Gonella (b 1911), who was also a trumpeter. During a visit to New York in 1939 Gonella recorded with John Kirby and performed at the Hickory House. After returning to London he led the New Georgians from 1940 to 1942, but worked less frequently in the late 1940s and early 50s. In ...

Article

Thomas L. Gayda

[Will; Williams, Hugh; Milos, André]

(b Vienna, Aug 11, 1894; d New York, Dec 10, 1939). Austrian composer, pianist and conductor. Born into a Jewish family of jewellers, he studied with the operetta composer Richard Heuberger, Robert Fuchs, the musicologist Guido Adler and Franz Schreker. After he left the Vienna Music Academy in 1919, his Zwei phantastische Stücke was given its first performance by the Vienna PO. The following year he received a doctorate in music from Vienna University. While he remained initially faithful to the late-Romantic, Impressionist line, he became the first Austrian composer to introduce jazz idioms into his music. His grotesque ballet-pantomime Baby in der Bar (1928) marked him as one of the prime exponents of the Zeitgeist of the Weimar era.

In 1927 Grosz moved to Berlin and became the artistic director of the new Ultraphon record company, quickly building up its catalogue as a conductor, arranger and pianist. He formed a well-known piano duo with Wilhelm Kauffman and toured Europe as a highly-sought accompanist and conductor. When the National Socialists seized power in ...

Article

Brian Priestley

revised by Alyn Shipton

[Edward]

(b London, March 30, 1900; d Virginia Water, nr Egham, Nov 18, 1969). English trombonist and bandleader. He studied the tenor horn with his father before taking up the trombone. After a period as a street musician (until 1922), he became a regular sideman with several prominent British dance bands, notably those of Bert Ambrose (1928–36), Sydney Lipton (1936–9), Geraldo (1939–44) and Jack Hylton. Though not a strong jazz soloist, Heath seized the chance in 1944 to form his own band, which made regular broadcasts, gave the ‘Swing Sessions’ concerts at the London Palladium and soon began to tour frequently. Employing the very best section players, Heath successfully emulated the precision and versatility of such American bandleaders as Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman (American musicians were banned from performing in Britain from 1935 to 1956). The many jazzmen who worked with him included Kenny Baker, Jack Parnell, and (consecutively) Ronnie Scott, Tommy Whittle, Danny Moss and Don Rendell; he also commissioned such enterprising arrangers as John Dankworth, Tadd Dameron (briefly in ...

Article

Steven Ledbetter

(August)

(b Dublin, Feb 1, 1859; d New York, May 26, 1924). American composer, conductor and cellist of Irish birth. He was the most talented and successful American operetta composer and important also as an advocate of copyright and performance-rights protection for composers.

Herbert’s father died when the boy was an infant, and he grew up in London with his maternal grandfather, the celebrated Irish novelist, poet and composer Samuel Lover (1798–1868). In 1866 Fanny Lover Herbert married a German physician; the family settled in Stuttgart, where Victor received musical training as well as a strong liberal education. He retained a lasting pride in his Irish (Protestant) heritage, reflected in many of his operettas.

He turned to music when financial difficulties prevented him from pursuing medicine, studied the cello with Bernhard Cossmann (1874–6), then entered the Stuttgart Conservatory, where he studied with Max Seifritz. He spent a year in the orchestra of the wealthy Russian Baron Paul von Derwies and another year in Vienna as soloist with the orchestra of Eduard Strauss, who had succeeded his brother Johann. In the light of his operetta work, the time in Vienna must be regarded as a significant formative experience. In ...

Article

Digby Fairweather

revised by Alyn Shipton

(b Great Lever, nr Bolton, July 2, 1892; d London, Jan 29, 1965). English bandleader, pianist and impresario. He worked as the director of a touring pantomime company (1909), as a cinema organist in London (1913) and as a freelance musician in various clubs. After military service he was appointed relief pianist for the dance band of the Queen’s Hall Roof; later he became this group’s arranger and director. Hylton made a number of recordings for HMV (from 1921), of which the early example Wang-Wang Blues (1921) is representative. He performed at various venues, including the Grafton Galleries, Piccadilly Hotel (1922–3), before enlarging his band to full orchestra size for a highly successful residency at the Alhambra Theatre (1924). In 1925 he set up a booking agency. During the late 1920s his orchestra became the English equivalent of Paul Whiteman’s show band and achieved huge commercial success. Between ...

Article

Andrew Lamb

(Karl)

(b Oberdorf, nr Treffen, April 9, 1895; d Klagenfurt, Sept 2, 1955). Austrian composer, conductor and pianist. The son of a doctor, he was educated in Villach and then studied law at Graz University. After serving as an artillery officer during World War I he studied at the Vienna Music Academy under Joseph Marx, Ferdinand Löwe, Eusebius Mandyczewski and Clemens Krauss. In 1923 he became the conductor of the opera school there, and from 1928 to 1934 was the musical director at the Innsbruck music school. His early compositions were mostly orchestral and chamber works; from 1934 he lived in Germany and Switzerland, and after his marriage to the operetta singer Trude Kollin began composing operettas, through which he gained his widest fame. In 1939 he returned to Austria, devoting himself to composition and performing his music as conductor and pianist. His operettas are traditional in style, reflecting in their effective vocal writing and classical orchestral writing Kattnigg's thorough musical training. His other compositions include two symphonies, a piano concerto, chamber and vocal works....

Article

Andrew Lamb

(b Schönfeld [now Krásno], July 3, 1802; d Karlsbad [now Karlovy Vary], Aug 19, 1881). Bohemian violinist, conductor and composer. He was the son of a weaver, who in 1800 moved from Kampern in Prussian Silesia to Schönfeld and in 1802 to Petschau (now Bečov nad Teplou). He studied with Karl Veit and at the age of 14 joined a travelling orchestra in Petschau. In 1820 he obtained a position as violinist in the spa orchestra at Marienbad (now Mariánské Lázně), taking other jobs during the winter months. He played in Munich (1823–4), where he took further violin lessons, and undertook a concert tour of southern Germany, visiting Regensburg, Augsburg, Ulm, Stuttgart, Würzburg and Nuremberg. In 1825 he founded his own orchestra, visiting Vienna in the winter of 1825–6 and Warsaw in 1829–30. In 1835 he became conductor of the spa orchestra at Karlsbad, where he rapidly built up a reputation for himself and his orchestra. His dance compositions began to have widespread popularity, particularly the ...

Article

Oldřich Pukl

(b Tábor, March 26, 1874; d Zagreb, Dec 24, 1930). Czech composer, conductor and viola player. He studied the violin with the regens chori Endler in Tábor and then with Bennewitz at the Prague Conservatory (1885–92), where he was also a pupil of Filip Bláha (trumpet and percussion) and Dvořák (composition). With Vitezslav Novák and Suk he was one of Dvořák’s most successful pupils. He played the viola in the Czech Quartet (1891–1906), in which Suk was the second violinist, and was often also heard as the group’s pianist. This ensemble raised the standards of Czech chamber playing to an international level and appeared all over Europe in a repertory based, during Nedbal’s time, on Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Smetana and Dvořák.

Nedbal was equally successful as a conductor. With the Czech PO, which he conducted from 1896 to 1906, he undertook his first major tour outside Austro-Hungary, to England in ...

Article

Alyn Shipton

(b Leamington Spa, Aug 22, 1899; d Tonbridge, Dec 4, 1969). English pianist and dance bandleader. He formed his first band during his World War I service in the Royal Flying Corps, and subsequently led his own small jazz group, in which he played piano. He worked in various Birmingham bands until moving to London in 1925, where he took over the band at the Hotel Cecil. He broadcast with this group from 1925, and recorded from 1927, ultimately enlarging it to ten players, and becoming conductor and singer himself, with Bob Busby as pianist. In 1928, as Director of Dance Music, he took over the BBC Dance Orchestra, with whom he broadcast almost daily, and made numerous recordings for Columbia. The orchestra also undertook theatrical bookings after appearing at the London Palladium in 1930, changing its name in the process to Jack Payne and His Orchestra. Like Jack Hylton, Payne was one of the first bandleaders to acquire popularity through broadcasting, and on leaving the BBC in ...

Article

Nevil Skrimshire

revised by Alyn Shipton

[Simon]

(b London, June 14, 1907; d Chertsey, May 23, 1973). English jazz clarinettist, bandleader and arranger. He studied the violin and piano as a child and taught himself theory and harmony. In his late teens he began playing the saxophone and the clarinet and performed with his brothers’ band in Europe. He worked as a staff arranger for a music publisher and as a music director for the Edison-Bell Gramophone Co. From 1930 he wrote arrangements for Bert Ambrose and led his own quintet. Later he joined Ambrose’s band (1933), with which he recorded on clarinet and alto and baritone saxophones (1933–7). In 1937 Phillips visited the USA, where he broadcast and recorded with American musicians. After serving in the RAF he formed another quintet (1946) and composed several symphonic works for the BBC SO (as Simon Phillips). From 1949 until his death he led his own dixieland band; among his sidemen were George Shearing, Colin Bailey, Tommy Whittle and Kenny Ball. Phillips made several recordings as a leader from ...

Article

Ken Rattenbury

revised by Alyn Shipton

(b London, Jan 12, 1900; d London, Feb 1, 1971). English bandleader, clarinettist, singer and composer. From 1919 he organized dance bands with his brother Syd, including Syd Roy’s Lyricals; they performed in London at Oddenino’s, Rector’s, the Hammersmith Palais and the Café de Paris, and at Rector’s in Paris. In 1928 the brothers toured South Africa and Australia (1929), then returned to England to play in variety theatres before touring Germany. In 1931 Harry formed his own band and, after touring (1933), held residencies at the Café Anglais and the Mayfair Hotel in London. He continued to tour extensively in theatres until 1939 and throughout World War II but after 1945 never regained his former status in London’s clubland. Roy was essentially a show-band leader, an energetic front man, a light, sometimes comic, singer, and a clarinettist in the style of Ted Lewis. Although hardly a jazz musician himself he employed as sidemen a number of players who later became prominent in jazz. His signature tune, ...

Article

Andrew Lamb

(b London, July 25, 1855; d London, Jan 22, 1895). English composer, conductor and pianist. A member of a family of theatre musicians, he began his career as a pianist at the Middlesex Music Hall in London; he was later the musical director at the New Royalty, Globe, Her Majesty’s and other theatres in London and New York. He wrote numerous parlour pieces for the piano and comic songs, and as a composer of comic operas he was one of the most accomplished contemporaries of Sullivan. Solomon’s melodies are usually in an English ballad or a march style with repeated melodic phrases and simple rhythms. His comic operas, many of which echo Sullivan’s, were all performed in London and include Billee Taylor (Imperial, 30 October 1880), Claude Duval (Olympic, 24 August 1881), The Vicar of Bray (Globe, 22 July 1882), Polly (Novelty, 4 October 1882...

Article

Alyn Shipton

[Louis]

(b London, May 28, 1898; d London, Feb 12, 1969). English bandleader, arranger and pianist. He wrote scores for Bert Ralton's band and rapidly became known as one of the most inventive arrangers of his time, blending elements of jazz, symphonic and commercial music within single arrangements. From 1927 he provided several outstanding arrangements for Ambrose's band, introducing a rhythm string section. He joined Roy Fox in 1931. He first led a band in 1932, at the Monseigneur Restaurant, and later formed his own band there with exceptionally good players and the singer Al Bowlly. The band recorded and broadcast regularly. Stone was musical director for British and Dominion Films (1931–5) and the British National Film Company (1936–9), appearing with his band in several films including Bitter Sweet and The Little Damozel. He also played in clubs, theatres, restaurants etc., made recordings and broadcast, latterly with a sextet (...

Article

[jr]

(b St Louis, July 16, 1925; d Manila, Philippines, May 5, 1982). American vibraphone player, percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger of Swedish descent. Based in San Francisco’s Bay Area throughout his career, he began as a jazz player, playing the drums with the Dave Brubeck Trio (1949–51). In 1953 he joined George Shearing’s jazz quintet as a vibraphone player and percussionist, and the following year left to form his own jazz ensemble with such players as pianist Vince Guaraldi. His virtuosity and infallible sense of phrasing marked him as the greatest jazz vibraphone player since Lionel Hampton. He turned to Latin jazz in the late 1950s, working with percussionists such as Mongo Santamaría, Armando Peraza and Willie Bobo. Tjader became the most famous non-Latino Latin jazz musician and bandleader of the 1950s and 60s, with such hits as Soul Sauce and Mamblues in addition to memorable versions of Dizzy Gillespie’s ...