quarta-feira, 13 de agosto de 2014

Les Baxter His Orchestra and Chorus - Voices in Rhythm

  1. Wake the Town and Tell the People
  2. Pennies from Heaven
  3. It's Only A Paper Moon
  4. These Foolish Things
  5. I May Be Wrong
  6. Walking My Baby Back Home
  7. The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)
  8. September in the Rain
  9. I'll Be Seeing You
  10. I Never Knew
  11. Once in A While
  12. Linger A While
Voices in Rhythm

The unique vocal stylings of the twelve buoyantly attractive selections that comprise this appealing album represent, in a certain sense, a reunion for arranger-composer Les Baxter, for it has been a while since he last did any intensive writing for chorus and orchestra in the popular vein. In recent years, as the result of his work on some forty phenomenally succesful long-play recordings, he has become identified in the public mind as the leader of a large recording orchestra specializing in lush music of a more or less exotic character. It must be remembered, however, that Baxter has had a long and extraordinarily varied music career. Indeed, there are few musical approaches that the composer-leader has not attempted - and mastered - in his forty years, well over twenty of which have been spent as a professional musician.

Born in Mexia, Texas, in March of 1922, Les Baxter initiated his musical studies at an early age, receiving his first instruction on piano at the age of five. Continuing with his studies, Les as a teenager enrolled in the Detroit Conservatory of Music, later progressing to Pepperdine College in Los Angeles, where he completed his formal musical education. While still a student, Les worked as pianist with a number of school dance bands and began singing with the Mel-Tones, a rather advanced (for the time) vocal group organized on the West Coast by young drummer-singer Mel Tormé.

It was valuable experience, further enriched by stints with the orchestras of Tommy Dorsey, Freddy Slack and Bob Crosby. In these organizations Les was primarily occupied with composing and arranging, though he also served as occasional pianist and all-purpose saxophone section man, for he had by this time mastered a wide range of reed instruments.

To an already impressive list of credits for one so young, Les further added a number of ambitious radio assignments. For several years in the lae 1940s he was responsible for the musical direction of the orchestras and choruses of the Bob Hope show - remember the "poor Miriam" jingle of the program's sponsor?

It was in 1950 that Les first entered the recording studios, achieving from the very outset a great deal of critical and popular acclaim, both for his sensitive accompaniments for such singers as Nat "King" Cole and for his own equally impressive recordings. It was in the early 1950s, you will recall, that Les initiated a series of recordings utilizing orchestra and chorus to great advantage. His own backgrounds in scoring for both voices and instruments, coupled with his own practical experience in singing and playing, had given him an intimate knowledge of the myriad problems involved in combining the two successfully. His superb musicianship and consummate taste provided the answers, as his excellent recordings from that period eloquently attest, for they remain to this day the most artful and sensitive orchestral and choral combinations of the past decade.

Most of these were immediate hits and, in fact, just about every listing of top recordings from that period contains one or more of Les' numbers. A partial list of his better-known successes includes Because of You, I Love Paris, Ruby, Wake the Town and Tell the People, Quiet Village, Poor People of Paris, April in Portugal, Unchained Melody, Blue Tango, The High and the Mighty, among many others. His first long-playing collection, Music Out of the Moon, was an unprecedented triumph, and quickly became the best selling album of exotic-styled music in the country. This disc has been succeeded by a raft of album offerings, among them Le Sacre du Sauvage, Voice of the Xtabay with Yma Sumac, Tamboo, Ports of Pleasure and La Femme.

One thing that has always marked Baxter's work, whether a popular hit or not, has been its extraordinarily high musical quality. All of his recordings bear the stamp of his own uncompromising musicianship. "I believe", he has stated, "that people will respond to a quality approach. They have to like it if it's well done. I think, too, that there is too much striving in the music business for hits as such". Pursuing this topic further, Les continued, "I've never believed in cheapening records by going according to what some people think of as public taste...I never aim at the current trend or fashion and at no time have I tried to stick to any one style. I think it's a mistake to set a style because a record sells and then to duplicate it all the time". Listening to the widely divergent character of Les' recordings over the past twelve years will show that this man practices what he preaches.

What dictates the musical approach he will adopt on a given number? Les answers, "I aim my arrangement at what will fit and colorfully frame the song in the best way possible". He adds conclusively, "And I believe that's what the public will buy". Certainly the public has responded time and time again to the Baxter credo. Apparently integrity is appreciated.

The present delightful collection signals a return to Baxter's early writing for orchestra and chorus, an approach he has not employed for some years. Yet, true to Les' dicta, the treatment he has accorded these twelve proven standards is no mere re-hash of his earlier writing style. Rather, he has approached them in a manner fitting to contemporary living, for the "new beat" that courses through most of today's music also enlivens the dozen selections herein. It is an interesting, novel approach for Les, and it makes for some bright, pleasant listening for you. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

(John W. Peters, from the original liner notes)

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