Ambrose & His Orchestra: When Day Is Done - His 51 Finest 1928-1944
Here is well over two and a half hours of the best of Britain’s finest dance band: Ambrose, on a great double CD set. Warsaw-born Benjamin Baruch Berofski (1896-1971) aka “Bert Ambrose” led what was considered to be the very best British dance band of that golden era, playing dance music with a strong Ellington-inspired jazz flavour.
When Day Is Done, the band’s signature tune, is the title of Retrospective’s distillation of the best from Ambrose’ prolific discography. The sequence carefully balances vocal and instrumental items, many of which benefit from the terrific arrangements of Sid Phillips (no fewer than nine of his are featured, including the wonderful Cotton Pickers’ Congregation). Ambrose employed many of the best musicians around: Danny Polo, Bert Amstell, Ted Heath, Stanley Black, George Chisholm – and it shows!
For the vocal numbers Ambrose again chose the best. His regular singer was Sam Browne (heard on 17 tracks: The Sun Has Got His Hat On), second only to Al Bowlly as Britain’s favourite male dance band singer, but the collection also features the young Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton, Elsie Carlisle, Denny Dennis and even a visiting Connee Boswell (I’ll Never Say “Never Again” Again). This is British dance music of the 30s at its finest.
Bert Ambrose was born in London in 1917. He travelled to New York as a violinist when he was 20, spending most of the next decade working in American bands. He eventually returned to England in 1927 when he was appointed musical director of the Mayfair Hotel in London. His American experience shows, for, right from 1928, these bands were superbly rehearsed and featured a very high quality of musician. The BBC regularly broadcast live from London's Mayfair Hotel, and as a result Ambrose's band became one of the most popular in the country. Deservedly so, for his was the only British band to rank writh its US equivalents. Only Lew Stone's band qame jaear as competition. The earlier records were made for HMV, but classic Ambrose came in the 30s on Decca. That's where, on the second volume, you'll find Night Ride, Cotton Pickers' Congregation and all the other fine arrangements by Sid Phillips. The American clarinettist Danny Polo was a mainstay of the band from 1929 and stayed until the end of the 30s when he went home to play with Teagarden, Hawkins and Claude Thornhill. Phillips was no doubt a disciple of his poised and precise clarinet playing. Unfortunately for us, this is not a jazz album, although all the jazz tracks are included alongside the vocals of the various singers, all of whom were pretty far from jazz. But the intention is to give a portrait of the Ambrose operation as a whole, and as such the set is an admirable four-star success. A lot of people will no doubt want it for its great historical value, but the quaint commercial tracks don't manage to suppress the jazz. Compiled by Ray Crick, a name rapidly becoming a quality guarantee, the music has been perfectly transferred and thoroughly researched. Ambrose liked to stand in front of the band at society gigs. That's about all he did. It was people like Sid Phillips and Tommy McQuater who ran the band for him. Jazz Journal