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.

Retrospective 4338
Review by Steve Voce

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 with its US equivalents. Only Lew Stone’s band came near 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.
Steve Voce

CD1: (1928-1935) Happy Days Are Here Again; Sunshine; Singapore Sorrows; If I Had You; Cryin’ For The Carolines; ’Leven Thirty Saturday Night; The Free And Easy; The Peanut Vendor; I’m Through With Love; Mei; Home; She Didn’t Say Yes; The Sun Has Got His Hat On;The Clouds Will Soon Roll By; Let’s Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep; How Deep Is The Ocean; Lazybones; It’s The Talk Of The Town; Who’s Been Polishing The Sun?; The Continental; Embassy Stomp; I’m On A See-Saw; Hors D’Oeuvres; Big Ben Is Saying Goodnight (78.23)
CD2: (1935-1944) Streamline Strut; Maracas; B’Wanga; Anything Goes; I’ll Never Say Never Again; Copenhagen; She’s A Latin From Manhattan; Limehouse Blues; The Piccolino; Night Ride; Wood And Ivory; Hick Stomp; Escapada; Champagne Cocktail; Cotton Pickers’ Congregation; Caravan; Deep Henderson; Moonlight On The Waterfall; Message From Mars; Two Sleepy People; Blue Skies Are Round The Corner; My Prayer; I’m In Love For The Last Time; I Don’t Want To Walk Without You, Baby; Lili Marlene; When Day Is Done (79.31)
CD1 includes Max Goldberg (t); Ted Heath (tb); Danny Polo, Sid Phillips (cl, as, bar); Harry Hayes (as); Billy Amstell, Joe Crossman (cl, ts); Max Bacon (d).
CD2 includes Tommy McQuater, Max Goldberg (t); George Chisholm; Eric Breeze, Lew Davis, Ted Heath (tb); Danny Polo, Sid Phillips (cl, as, bar); Andy McDevitt (as); Billy Amstell (cl, ts); Ivor Mairants, Albert Harris (g); Tiny Winters (b); Max Bacon (d); Anne Shelton, Vera Lynn, Denny Dennis (v).

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