Preview: The Great American Songbook - New album King's Singers arr. Alexander L'Estrange. Release 30th September / RAH 16 Oct

Alexander L'Estrange

Alexander L'Estrange writes about a new album of his arrangements, sung by the King's Singers, of classic jazz standards. The album is called The Great American Songbook and is released on the 30th September on Signum Classics as SIGCD341(29th October in the US).

Having worked with The King’s Singers on a number of occasions previously, I was delighted to be asked to arrange the songs for their new studio album. The album features seventeen of the best loved American songs from a golden age of song-writing – the 1920s to the early 1960s - including the works of greats such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin.

Essentially I’ve arranged them to take full advantage of the flawless a cappella ensemble singing and individual lead voices of The King’s Singers.

There are literally hundreds of great tunes from this time, so limiting it to seventeen was a challenge. Arranging such popular songs is not to be done lightly either. There are already many a cappella arrangements out there and it seems everyone has their personal favourites. But for me it was an absolute treat to work with these superb melodies and lyrics.

They have a special place in my heart because I first got to know the repertoire as an Oxford University undergraduate, when I had a job as a jazz pianist entertaining diners at Browns restaurant, improvising their requests!”

Stylistic variety sets this album apart. It’s not just a whole album of swinging ‘rat pack’ songs. There’s a real range, not to mention some cheeky ‘quotes’ from other songs peppered throughout. We have some wonderful humorous songs such as Let’s Misbehave and It’s De-lovely by Cole Porter; love ballads like My Funny Valentine and Cry Me a River and then classic swing tracks such as The Lady is a Tramp.

For a couple of numbers – Begin the beguine and I’ve got you under my skin – I’ve gone for a Latin American, bossa nova treament. The song Bewitched, bothered and bewildered, immortalised by Ella Fitzgerald, is often done as slow ballad. In this case I’ve given it a sultry swing feel.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how I’ve approached the famous Fred Astaire song Cheek to cheek. I decided to meld it with the end of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. The contrast of the languorous and rapturous I’m in heaven and the sublime In paradisum really plays to the strengths of The King’s Singers who carry it off with panache and polish. I believe it’s what the youth of today call a mash-up!

The album is released on Signum Classics in the UK on 30th September (29th October in the US)

The King's Singers will perform the music from the new album in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall on 16th October (with Alexander L'Estrange) Tickets HERE

CD Track Listing
CD 1 - A Cappella
The best is yet to come - Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
Let's misbehave - Cole Porter
Night and Day - Cole Porter
Cry me a river - Arthur Hamilton
I've got the world on a string - Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler
When I fall in love - Victor Young, Edward Heyman
It's de-lovely - Cole Porter
Beyond the sea - Charles Trenet, Jack Lawrence
Cheek to cheek - Irving Berlin
Begin the beguine - Cole Porter
At last - Mack Gorden, Harry Warren
I've got you under my skin - Cole Porter
The lady is a tramp - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
My funny Valentine - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
I won't dance - Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh
Ev'ry tme we say goodbye - Cole Porter

CD 2 – Orchestral
Let's misbehave - Cole Porter
Begin the beguine - Cole Porter
At last - Mack Gordon, Harry Warren
It's de-lovely - Cole Porter
The lady is a tramp - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
My funny Valentine - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
I've got the world on a string - Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler
Ev'ry time we say goodbye - Cole Porter

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