Composer of "Cherokee" and "The Very Thought of You," Ray Noble led a popular and talented orchestra in England for several years before coming to America, only to lead a popular and talented orchestra here. As a back story to this excellent music, however, Noble had come to America virtually alone, since the group he led for HMV in Britain during the early '30s was an orchestra in the studio only. (Fortunately he did cross the Atlantic with vocalist Al Bowlly, his star attraction, and arranging assistant Bill Harty.) Waiting for him in New York was one of his most fervent American disciples, Glenn Miller, who had assembled a lineup of all-stars ready to appear, under Noble's baton, at his residency in the Rainbow Room of Rockefeller Center. This group included Charlie Spivak and Pee Wee Erwin on trumpet, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, and Claude Thornhill on piano, and the group got down to business in the studio by mid-1935 (this was nearly a year after Noble's arrival in America, due to his work in Hollywood and the demands of public performing). Their recordings included Miller's unhinged arrangement of "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and a "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" that not only featured Bowlly -- an excellent Irving Berlin interpreter -- on vocals but also Noble's supremely stuffed English gentleman persona (he later endeared himself to American audiences in similar fashion when he led the band for George Burns & Gracie Allen's radio show). The hits began flowing, including "I've Got You Under My Skin" (also with Bowlly), two extremely popular numbers backing Fred Astaire ("Nice Work if You Can Get It," "Change Partners"), and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" with Tony Martin. Many of Noble's later-'30s sides in America don't have established personnel, but the playing is solid on his five-part "Indian Suite" (including "Cherokee") from a 1938 studio date. Closing with Noble's latest hit, 1941's "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," Ray Noble & His American Orchestra proves to be an excellent collection of Ray Noble's brush with the American big bands.
Ray Noble & His American Orchestra Review
by John Bush