This is a very intersting sampler … that take us back to the London Jazz scene in the 30´s of the last century:
Lew Stone (28 May 1898 – 12 January 1969) was a bandleader and arranger of the British dance band era, and was well known in Britain during the 1930s.
Stone learned music at an early age and became an accomplished pianist. In the 1920s, he worked with many important dance bands. Some arrangements attributed to Stone can be heard on particular records by the Savoy Orpheans (1927) and Ray Starita and his Ambassador’s Band (1928).
During 1927–1931, Stone’s arrangements for the Bert Ambrose Orchestra made it virtually the best in Europe. The HMV discs are today sought after as much for those arrangements as for the superb instrumentalists or vocals.
Stone continued to work with other bands like Jack Hylton’s and Jack Payne’s BBC Dance Orchestra, and he also took several top musicians into the studio to make a few recordings that were issued on the Duophone label as ‘Lewis Stone and his Orchestra’.
Roy Fox’s Band opened at the Monseigneur Restaurant in 1931 and Stone took up the position of pianist and arranger. When Fox became ill in October he was sent to Switzerland to rest and Stone assumed leadership of the band. The main vocalist at the Monseigneur was the very popular Al Bowlly who had already sung on over 30 recordings.
When Fox returned to London in April 1932, he found that his band was the most popular in the city. A contemporary article in The Gramophone magazine described events.
In 1932, Stone also worked with a studio band and several recordings were issued on the flexible Durium Records featuring vocals by Al Bowlly, Sam Browne and Les Allen. Some of the arrangements on Durium were by Stan Bowsher.
In October 1932, when Roy Fox’s contract at the Monseigneur ended, Stone was offered the post of bandleader and this story filled the pages of the music press. An article from Rhythm magazine describes how this happened.
The Tuesday night broadcasts from the Monseigneur established Stone’s band as a great favourite with the listening public, who recognised the sheer quality of the music, and the royal clientele attracted an unsurpassed reputation. Rave reviews were common in the music press, for example Melody Maker.
The popularity of vocalist Al Bowlly increased; he was a regular on broadcasts, his name was credited on many of the Decca records and he toured with the band including an appearance before of royalty at the London Palladium.
In 1933, Stone’s Monseigneur Band was involved in a competition designed to test the popularity in Britain of British vs US dance bands. It was run by the ‘News Chronicle’ newspaper and was based on the sales of specially recorded dance tunes by Stone’s band, Jack Hylton’s, Guy Lombardo’s and Wayne King’s. The songs were “What More can I Ask?” and “Can’t We Meet Again?”.
From late 1931 until 1934, Stone was also musical director for British & Dominions Film Corporation, working mostly from Elstree Studios, and later worked with other film companies. About 40 pre-1947 films which involved Stone with his band or as Musical Director are included in the listings of British musical films on the British Dance Bands on Film, British Entertainers on Film, British Musical Directors website.
In November 1933, Stone transferred his band to the Cafe Anglais and in February 1934 started a very successful tour for the Mecca Agency. The band returned to the Monseigneur in March 1934 until the summer when the Monseigneur was sold to become a cinema. In September 1934, Al Bowlly and Bill Harty left to join Ray Noble in USA.
For about a year from November 1934, Stone moved to the Regal Zonophone record label, continued with theatre tours, and the band was resident for a time at the Hollywood Restaurant. Alan Kane became the main vocalist while there were also vocal contributions from Nat Gonella, Joe Ferrie, Tiny Winters and Joe Crossman. When Gonella left to concentrate on his own Georgians band in March 1935, trumpeter Tommy McQuater joined Stone’s band. On 12 October, Stone featured Sam Browne as vocalist for the first time with “Cheek To Cheek” and Isn’t This A Lovely Day?. In November, Stone and his band returned to the Decca record label.
In 1936, Stone stopped touring and formed a smaller band which opened on 30 March at the Cafe de Paris. The band also began to broadcast regularly for commercial radio stations Radio Normandy and Radio Luxembourg. In October, Stone became musical director for the show On Your Toes (opened February 1937). The band continued at the Cafe de Paris until 31 July 1937. In September, Stone became musical director of the show Hide and Seek at the London Hippodrome starring Cicely Courtneidge and Bobby Howes.
Al Bowlly returned to England at the end of 1937 and in February 1938 he began recording with Stone again. Recordings with Bowlly in 1938 are as good as those made during the earlier years. Stone’s band played music of all kinds, for all tastes, and for all the dance tempos, but today it is particularly their playing of the sentimental ballads that is recognised and in demand for re-issue on CD, especially the titles featuring Bowlly. In his own arrangements, Stone was particularly careful to match Bowlly’s voice with appropriate ensemble phrasing and short instrumental solos resulting in very pleasant recordings which make much more satisfying listening than many other bands’ recordings of the standard tunes.
Stone was not afraid to work with modern music and was also an innovator. His recordings of the Gene Gifford/Casa Loma Orchestra titles are not mere copies but careful interpretations which make full use of the superb musicians in his band. The skills of Lew Davis, Joe Crossman and Nat Gonella are particularly evident on several of Stone’s earlier jazz titles, some of which were issued in USA.
In June 1938, the band was the first name band to play at Butlins Holiday Camps and in September they were back at The Cafe de Paris and broadcasting regularly from there.
In October, Stone became musical director for the Jack Hulbert show Under Your Hat which continued into 1939 and featured the Rhythm Brothers (Clive Erard, Jack Trafford, Frank Trafford). His band played at the El Morocco Club, London.
In June 1940, Stone opened at the Dorchester Hotel with a seven piece band which he led on the novachord. This band was much praised for its original style. Later Stone also made several records with his jazz group the Stonecrackers which featured Britain’s finest soloists. Broadcasting and recording with his large band continued and he toured the country during the rest of the war years.
After the war, his band resided at various places including The Embassy Club, The Pigalle Restaurant and Oddenino’s Restaurant up to 1955. In this period he made several recordings with the King of Jiddish Music Leo Fuld. Stone continued to work round the ballrooms and broadcast with his fourteen piece band until 1959 when the BBC told him that he could not expect to broadcast as frequently as he would wish unless he reduced the size of his band. So, Lew Stone and his sextet was born.
For the next eight years they played frequently for ‘Music While You Work’ also appearing weekly, for nearly two years in ‘The Bands Played On’- a breakfast-time programme. Lew was also concentrating on his entertainments agency in the 1960s.
At the time of his death in 1969 Stone’s music from the 1930s was just beginning to gather a whole new following.
Benjamin Baruch Ambrose (11 September 1896 – 11 June 1971), known professionally as Ambrose or Bert Ambrose, was an English bandleader and violinist. Ambrose became the leader of a highly acclaimed British dance band, Bert Ambrose & His Orchestra, in the 1930s.
Ambrose was born in Warsaw in 1896, when it was part of the Russian Empire. After a time the family moved to London. They were Jewish, his father being registered as a “Dealer in rags” in the 1911 UK census, where Ambrose was named as “Barnett’ (a “Violin musician student”). He began playing the violin while young, and travelled to New York with his aunt. He began playing professionally, first for Emil Coleman at New York’s Reisenweber’s restaurant, then in the Palais Royal’s big band. After making a success of a stint as bandleader, at the age of 20 he was asked to put together and lead his own fifteen-piece band. After a dispute with his employer, he moved his band to another venue, where they enjoyed considerable popularity.
While at the Palais Royal, on 5 June 1918, he registered for the draft (Local Board Division 169, City of NY NY, 144 St Nicholas Ave; Registration 232). He gave as his date of birth 11 September 1896; place of birth Warsaw, Russia; nationality Russian; father’s birthplace Grietza, Russia; place of employment Palais Royal, 48th Street & Broadway; nearest relative Mrs Becky Ambrose, mother, 56 “Blaksley” Street, London, England. He signed as “Bert Ambrose”. The registrar recorded medium height, medium build, brown hair, brown eyes and no physical disability that would render him exempt from the draft.
In 1922, Ambrose returned to London, where he was engaged by the Embassy Club to form a seven-piece band. He stayed at the Embassy for two years, before walking out on his employer to take up a much more lucrative job in New York. After a year there, besieged by continual pleas to return from his ex-employer in London, in 1925 he was finally persuaded to go back by a cable from the Prince of Wales: “The Embassy needs you. Come back—Edward”.
This time Ambrose stayed at the Embassy Club until 1927. The club had a policy of not allowing radio broadcasts from its premises, however, and this was a major drawback for an ambitious bandleader, largely because the fame gained by radio work helped a band to gain recording contracts (Ambrose’s band had been recorded by Columbia Records in 1923, but nothing had come of this). He therefore accepted an offer by the May Fair Hotel, with a contract that included broadcasting.
During his time at the Embassy, he married “Kathryn Lucille otherwise Kitty Brady”, a 24-year-old Irish-American from New Jersey, on 20 January 1924. Oddly, he is named and signed as “Bernard Ambrose”, a 27-year-old “Musical Director”, on the marriage certificate. They had two daughters, Patricia S (b. 1931) and Monica J (b. 1933).
Ambrose stayed at the May Fair for six years, during which time the band made recordings for Brunswick Records, HMV and Decca. He teamed up with Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, along with an American harmony song trio, the Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce (aka Three X Sisters), to record songs including “My Heart Stood Still” among others. This period also saw the musical development of the band, partly as a result of Ambrose’s hiring of first-class musicians, including Sylvester Ahola, Ted Heath, Joe Crossman, Joe Jeannette, Bert Read, Joe Brannelly, Dick Escott and trumpeter Max Goldberg.
In 1933, Ambrose was asked to accept a cut in pay at the May Fair; refusing, he went back to the Embassy Club, and after three years there (and a national tour), he rejected American offers and returned to the May Fair in 1936. He then went into partnership with Jack Harris, an American bandleader, and in 1937 they bought a club together, Ciro’s Club. For three months they even employed Art Tatum there, to some the greatest jazz pianist who ever lived. Ambrose and Harris alternated performances at Ciro’s until a disagreement led to the rupture of their partnership. Ambrose then worked at the Café de Paris until the outbreak of the Second World War, when he again went on tour.
His major discovery in the years leading up to the war was the singer Vera Lynn (b. 1917), who sang with his band from 1937 to 1940 and, during the war, became known as the “Forces’ Sweetheart”. Lynn married Harry Lewis, a clarinettist in the band, in 1939. Other singers with the Ambrose band included Sam Browne, Elsie Carlisle, Denny Dennis, who recorded a number of duets with Vera Lynn, Max Bacon (also the band’s drummer), Evelyn Dall and Anne Shelton, with whom “When That Man is Dead and Gone”, a jibe at Adolf Hitler, written by Irving Berlin, was recorded in 1941. Ambrose’s signature tune was “When Day is Done”.
After a short period back at the May Fair Hotel, Ambrose retired from performing in 1940, although he and his orchestra continued to make records for Decca until 1947. Several members of his band became part of the Royal Air Force band, the Squadronaires, during the war. Ambrose’s retirement was not permanent, however, and he formed and toured with the Ambrose Octet, and dabbled in management.
In the mid-1950s, despite appearances in London’s West End and a number of recordings for MGM, Ambrose, in common with other bandleaders, was struggling because rock and roll had arrived. He was forced to start performing in small clubs with casual musicians, and his financial position deteriorated catastrophically. His situation was saved, however, by his discovery of the singer Kathy Kirby (1938–2011), whom he heard singing at the age of 16 at the Ilford Palais. He started a long personal relationship with Kirby and promoted her career.
It was during the recording of one of Kirby’s television programmes (at the Yorkshire Television studios) that Ambrose collapsed, dying later the same night in Leeds General Infirmary. His music was kept alive after his death by, among others, Radio 2 broadcasters Alan Dell and Malcolm Laycock, the latter continuing to play his records into the 21st century. His records, especially from his many 78-rpm records and Radio Luxemburg recording , still regularly feature on Australian radio 8CCC-FM’s long-running nostalgia programme “Get Out Those Old Records”, hosted by Rufl.
Specialist dance band radio stations, such as Radio Dismuke and Swing Street Radio, continue to play his records. Ambrose also features regularly on the Manx Radio programme Sweet & Swing, presented by Howard Caine.
Ambrose was commemorated in 2005 by a blue plaque unveiled on the May Fair Hotel. (by wikipedia)
What a wonderful trip in the history of the past, in the history of the golden days of Big Band Jazz !
Ambrose & His Orchestra:
Billy Amstell (saxophone)
Max Bacon (drums)
Dick Ball (bass)
Bert Barnes (piano)
Joe Brannelly (guitar)
Eric Breeze (trombone)
Les Carew (trombone)
Lew Davis (trombone)
Joe Ferrie (trombone)
Max Goldberg (trumpet)
Albert Harris (guitar)
Ted Heath (trombone)
Joe Jeanette (saxophone)
Tommy McQuater (trumpet)
Alfie Noakes (trumpet)
Sid Phillips (saxophone)
Danny Polo (saxophone, clarinet)
Dennis Radcliffe (trumpet)
Tony Thorpe (trombone)
Eddie Carroll (piano on 04.)
Clinton French (trumpet on 05.)
Jack Simpson (timpani on 05., xylophone on 04. + 05.)
The Lew Stone Band:
Harry Berly (saxophone, viola)
Al Bowlly (guitar)
Joe Crossman (saxophone, clarinet)
Lew Davis (trombone)
Jim Easton (saxophone, clarinet)
Nat Gonella (trumpet)
Billy Harty (drums)
Monia Liter (piano)
Alfie Noakes (trumpet)
Ernest Ritte (saxophone)
Tiny Winters (bass)
Don Barrigo (saxophone on 09.)
Harry Berly (saxophone on 09.)
Tommy McQuater (trumpet on 09.)
Bill Mulraney (trombone on 09.)
Barry Wicks (drums on 09.)
Ambrose & His Orchestra:
01. Embassy Stomp (Barnes) 2.41
02. Caravan (Ellington/Mills/Tizol) 2.36
03. Deep Henderson (Rose) 3.15
04. Hors D’Oeuvre (Comer) 3.12
05. The Night Ride (Phillips) 2.59
06. Cotton Pickers’ Congregation (Phillips) 3.07
07. Copenhagen (Davis/Melrose) 3..01
The Lew Stone Band:
08. White Jazz (Gifford) 3.08
09. St Louis Blues (Handy) 2.40
10. Nagasaki (Warren/Dixon) 2.50
11. Milenberg Joys (Rose/Morton/Roppolo/Mares) 3.03
12. Blue Jazz (Gifford) 2.59
13. Serenade For A Wealthy Widow (Foresythe) 3.08
14. Tiger Rag (Original DixieLand Jazz Band) 3.08
01 3rd January 1935
02, 03, 06 8th July 1937
04 4th January 1935
05 29th June 1936
07 30th July 1935
08, 12 3rd November 1933
09 9th November 1935
10 24th October 1933
11, 13 16th May 1934
14 9th January 1934
Swingin´ London in the 30´s