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January 17, 2006

Canadian Big Band CD Review

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review – Big Band/Dance Band
Captain Bob Farnon & the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force
JAZZ.FM91 – The Classic Collection / 2005

When the Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered three dance bands to form to entertain the invasion forces after D-Day, Captain Bob Farnham began auditioning for his Canadian Dance Band. Meanwhile Sgt.-Major George Melachrino formed the ‘British Band’, and Capt. Glenn Miller organized the ‘American Band of the AEF’.

Farnon, an original member of CBC Radio’s famous ‘Happy Gang’, had been leading a troupe of musicians, actors and singers in a revue called ‘The Army Show’ when he got the call to form the Orchestra. He relied on the works of popular music composers such as Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and the Gershwins to create his tight, buoyant sound. The personnel makes up the various ensembles showcased on these 27 tracks, ranging from octet to full orchestra, with vocals contributed by soloists Joanne Dallas, Paul Carpenter and Gerry Travers, and the occasional track including a mixed chorus.

Canadian Dance Band made its radio debut Sept. 4, 1944 on the Expeditionary Forces Program, and along with its other incarnations, performed live to air on a weekly basis for nearly three years. This 2005 CD release is a selection of performances those days of their radio tenure. Ironically, Canadians at large never heard any of it until now as you had to be overseas during 1944-1946 to listen to the broadcasts, and there were no studio recordings made.

Band member and trumpeter Fred Davis (who eventually went on to become a television personality) spurred this CD into existence when he recorded his old transcription discs onto a cassette tape, then additional material was added from the archives of the Robert Farnon Society in the U.K. JAZZ.FM91 and producer Glen Woodcock compiled them for this superb historical and musical gem.

Good music, good feeling, and a little like being let in on a big and exciting secret, Captain Bob Farnon & the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force will make you swell with pride, and dance your baby around the room. As Farnon himself said; “You know, at the time we didn’t think we were very good. Now, having heard the band again after all these years, I think we may have sold ourselves short.” You said it, Captain!

to order visit www.jazz.fm

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