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(b Peru, IL, April 3, 1895; d Lakewood, NJ, Nov 22, 1971). American composer and pianist. After studying music at the Chicago Musical College he formed a touring orchestra with his brother James in about 1915. Through his work as a pianist and arranger for various piano-roll companies (QRS, Ampico, Imperial and Victor) he developed a popular style known as Novelty piano. This combined classical piano technique with syncopated rhythms and peppy tunes. The technical possibilities of piano rolls helped inspire some of his flashy keyboard effects and rhythmic tricks that influenced later composers in the novelty-piano idiom. Among his most popular pieces were Stumbling (1922), Dizzy Fingers (1923) and Kitten on the Keys (1921), the last of which he performed at Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall concert, 12 February 1924. These and other pieces were issued by Jack Mills, Inc. as Modern Novelty Piano Solos...

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

Ed Bemis

(b East Durham, NY, April 28, 1926; d New York, Feb 7, 2009). American popular singer and pianist. She began her career as a member of the Blue Flames, a vocal group within Woody Herman’s orchestra, and the Blue Reys, a similar group in Alvino Rey’s band. In 1952 she went to Paris, where she performed with Annie Ross and also formed her own vocal group, the Blue Stars, whose jazz rendition of Lullaby of Birdland (sung in French) was a big hit in the USA. Two other vocal groups, the Double Six of Paris and the Swingle Singers, developed from the Blue Stars. Dearie returned to the USA in the late 1950s and subsequently appeared in night clubs in New York and Los Angeles, accompanying herself at the head of her own trios. From 1974 she made recordings for her own company, Daffodil Records, and in 1985...

Article

Andrew Lamb

(b Bucharest, April 3, 1889; d Bucharest, March 28, 1949). Romanian violinist and composer. He studied at the Bucharest Conservatory (1902–6) with Kiriac-Georgescu (theory and solfège), Rudolf Malcher, Gheorghe A. Dinicu and Carl Flesch (violin), Dimitrie A. Dinicu (chamber music) and Alfonso Castaldi (orchestra) and later with Cecilia Nitzulescu-Lupu and Vasile Filip (violin). He was a violinist in the orchestra of the Ministry of Public Instruction (1906–8) and solo violinist with the Bucharest PO, directed popular music concerts (1906–46) and was leader of the Bucharest Pro Musica (1938–40). In addition, he made tours abroad, collected and arranged Romanian popular melodies and composed several pieces for violin and piano. Among these Hora staccato (1906) has achieved particular popularity as a violin encore; others include Hora spiccato, Hora de concert, Improvisation à la Dinicu, Hora martisorului, Hora de la Chiţorani...

Article

Philip L. Scowcroft

(b London, June 5, 1918; d Suffolk, May 9, 1992). English arranger, composer and pianist. He studied at the RAM, then, as a pianist, began broadcasting in 1946, latterly in a duo with Edward Rubach. He was perhaps best known on radio as an arranger of folk and popular tunes, film and musical comedy themes for orchestra, sometimes with chorus. He was skilled at finding novel approaches to his arrangements for such BBC radio programmes as ‘Melodies for You’ and the long-running ‘Friday Night is Music Night’, and also for his own sextet and trio. Some are so inventive as to straddle the boundary between arrangement and composition, like the London Rhapsody for piano and orchestra and the ‘kindergarten fresco’ Ourselves When Young.

Among his own compositions are the entertainment pieces for brass band, Cornet Cascade and Jolly Roger, and a suite in the manner of Coates, Scènes du ballet...

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

John Snelson

(John Herman)

(b Hampstead, Oct 29, 1903; d London, June 19, 1996). English composer, lyricist and pianist. His grandmother Julia Woolf (1831–93) was a pianist and composer, publishing piano pieces, songs and the comic opera Carina (1888), and his mother was a violin pupil of Ysaÿe. He won a music scholarship to Cheltenham College and later studied the piano with Myra Hess at the RAM; his recordings of piano medleys of his own work, especially that from Streamline (1934), reveal a strong technique. Inspired by the music of Paul Rubens, particularly after seeing a revival of Tonight's the Night, he turned to composing light music, contributing additional songs to shows including The Curate's Egg (1922) and By the Way (1923). He learned about songwriting styles as a song plugger for Francis, Day & Hunter, and in 1928 became a composer for Chappell. His first transatlantic hit was achieved with ‘I never dreamt’ in the revue ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by William A. Everett and Deane L. Root

(b Prague, Dec 7, 1879; d Los Angeles, Nov 12, 1972). American composer and pianist of Czech birth. He won a scholarship to the Prague Conservatory and studied composition with Dvořák and piano with Josef Jiránek. He began composing light concert pieces as soon as he graduated, but also accepted a position as accompanist for the violinist Jan Kubelík in order to support himself. He toured Europe and made two visits with Kubelík to the USA, where he decided to settle in 1906. In that year he performed his First Piano Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the New York SO and gave recitals throughout the country, quickly achieving a reputation for his imaginative improvisation. He also continued to compose both concert pieces and lighter music, often under the pseudonym Roderick Freeman.

In 1912 Victor Herbert, who had quarreled with Emma Trentini, the leading lady of his Naughty Marietta...

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 ...