Its said that when arranger Pat Williams was presented with the Nelson Riddle charts in order to choose items for the “Duets” project he was overcome with emotion on seeing these historic arrangements. I am sure that many attending “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers at The National Concert Hall in Dublin felt the same emotion at hearing Nelson’s charts being performed by The National Concert Orchestra plus Big Band under the baton of David O’Rourke who has an empathy with this music. A Dubliner by birth and jazz guitarist, who has made a name for himself in the States, he seems to have adopted the role of caretaker of these charts with the blessing of Rosemary Riddle Acerra. The concert opened with a Cole/Sinatra medley followed by three movements from Nelson’s composition “Cross Country Suite”. We tend to forget the Riddle contribution to the world of the movies and David showed us his arranging skills with a piece written for Audrey Hepburn’s character “Gabrielle” from “Paris When it Sizzles” featuring Fintan O’Neill on piano and Hugh Buckley guitar. The ever-popular Gary Williams and a new performer to the Dublin stage Allan Harris performed many of the Sinatra/Cole/Martin hits to the delight of a packed hall. Ciaran Wilde on clarinet was the featured soloist on “Please be Kind” from Nelson’s first album and it is sad to think that arrangers were paid no royalties, just a flat rate hence Nelson’s entry into the album scene.
It was typical of Nat that when he learned that Nelson not Les Baxter had arranged “Mona Lisa” that he had the subsequent pressings changed to credit Nelson. It was marvellous to hear the award winning song with full string arrangement. The Sinatra Film Suite was featured in the second half of the concert. Stephen Mathieson was the trombone soloist on “You’re Mine You” from the Tender Touch album. One of the standout vocals of the evening was Gary Williams interpretation of “Don’t Make a Beggar out of Me” arranged by Axel Stordahl. Allan Harris brought the evening to a close with a fine version of “My Heart Stood Still”.
Credit is due to all concerned with organising this tribute to one of the great musical arrangers of popular music. Thanks to RTE. Rosemary Riddle and David O’Rourke and the ladies and gentlemen of The Concert Orchestra and Big Band. One small quibble, it’s a pity that a female vocalist was not featured in order to hear some of the charts that Nelson wrote for Ella, Judy, Linda etc. Maybe next time. Chris Hitchcock