57. Dance band daze

Posted on 02/07/2017

57. Dance band daze

The dance band only really flourished from about 1925 to 1955, when it was killed off by rock and roll and the growth of TV. Thats in the US: about 30 years. In Britain it did not get  going till about 1930 and so had an even shorter life.

During its brief heyday the dance bands were very innovative and produced some striking music. There were also some splendid band names: the Savoy Orpheans is my favourite. Based at the Savoy hotel and that sounds rather exclusive. But in the 1930s dance band music was broadcast by the BBC and by the commercial stations Radio Normandie and Radio Luxembourg almost nightly so everyone could listen. They employed Adrian Rollini for a bit around 1930 (see below).

The following is the Savoy Orpheans in 1931 live, which is more interesting than watching a 78 record go round. Amazing dress and stylized gestures.

The next song I am afraid is pictures of a gramophone, but is justified by the excellent performance. Harry Roy was an irrepressible performer and he had two marvellous pianists: Ivor Moreton and Dave Kay playing for him.

This really is hot danceband music: it would take pretty nimble feet to keep up with this for three minutes. Harry Roy was one of the funniest bandleaders: he altered his programme all the time and teased his band members to keep up with him. As you can hear on this song, they managed it down to the final ‘he’s daid’ at the end.

Ivor Moreton and Dave Kay epitomised the shortlived fame of the dance band. They were very popular from about 1933 to 1950 or so, and then vanished. I can find nothing about their lives on the internet. They just existed for these flashy few years.

As you can see from this video, their piano playing was extremely good, and their shoes extremely well polished. Dave Kay was the handsome one, but Ivor Moreton was the main man, doing most of the solo work. They manage the odd little tight smile but clearly it took all their concentration to get out the barrage of notes which was their trademark. This shows them side by side but they also played on  two grand pianos back to back on some occasions.

This is the great Adrian Rollini leading his orchestra. He was arguably the first man to play a sax solo on, of all things, the cumbersome great bass saxophone. But as you can hear from this record he could switch from the standard ‘oompah’ keeping the beat, to charming solos at the flick of a button.

This song is credited to the fiddle player Joe Venutu and the guitarist Eddie Lang, but Rollini can be heard both on rhythm and solo duty making his bass saxophone really sing. There is a lovely LP of the chamber jazz that Venuti/Rollini/Lang created in the early 1930’s.

His career,  though, was even shorter than the average dance band. His instrument was good for rhythm playing before they could properly record drums (jug bands filled the same slot).

But once drums could be recorded better, in the early 30’s, Rollini was finished. It was extremely sad, because he was a brilliant musician. He also played the vibes and other musical percussion and instruments of his own invention (the ‘hot fountain pen’). But his heyday was less than a decade.

They were brilliant while they lasted, but dance bands, Ivor Moreton and Dave Kay, and Adrian Rollini all had fleeting periods of fame. Rock and Roll has already been going much longer than they did, and the Rolling Stones even longer than that!













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