The Sounds of Burt Bacharach, a musical spectacular by Chris Dean
As a session musician Chris has
received acclaim from many of the music industryís top performers.
He has recorded with Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle,
George Shearing, Bob Farnon, Angela Morley, Henry Mancini, Michel
Legrand, Barbara Streisand, Natalie Cole, Liza Minelli, Mel Torme
and Shirley Bassey. Film work for Composers such as Jerry Goldsmith
and John Williams has included the soundtracks for the films
Superman, Out of Africa, Basic Instinct, Never Say Never Again, The
Living Daylights and Batman to name but a few. He has also played
with Orchestras such as the LSO and RPO and performed on Pop Albums
for the likes of Eric Clapton, Westlife, Wet Wet Wet and Queen as
well as being featured in TV shows such as The Benny Hill Show,
Stars in Their Eyes and several Royal Variety Shows.
Digger talked to Chris, the
Musical Director of the famous Syd Lawrence Orchestra, who is
currently touring the UK with a Burt Bacharach Spectacular.
Digger: What was the inspiration for the Bacharach show?
Chris: Funnily enough, an album of his music was bought for me and
it reminded me how much I enjoyed his music. Iíd worked with
Bacharach in the 90s, and actually in the late 70s, and Iíd always
enjoyed his music. But Iíd kind of forgotten about it because I
was involved in other things. And when I started listening to the
album I just found that I really did enjoy it and I said to Angie
ďThereís a show here. I don't think anyone else is doing it.
Letís do it and letís do it properly."
Digger: Do you have to get special permissions to play the songs?
Chris: No, you don't have to get permissions to do other
peopleís material. You just make sure that you fill in PRS forms.
Digger: What was the album that inspired you?
Chris: It was just a big compilation of all of the Burt Bacharach
Digger: Yes, Iíve got a double CD of his work and thereís
obviously something that makes a tune a Bacharach tune and yet
thereís a diversity there.
Chris: Yes, he comes from a different angle to most pop writers
Ė the first thing is that heís clever and you donít get your
normal three chord trick and the normal shape to a song. They
surprise you, which is rather nice.
Digger: How hard is it to reproduce such an authentic Bacharach
Chris: Not madly hard. I got the best writer around, Trevor Brown,
who did the most beautiful arrangements. And what we did, because
obviously weíre doing it with a slightly smaller band, so we
adapted it and kept the core things together like the use of the
trumpet and flugel horn. So we got really good players and a great
trombone player. Then we made sure we got the right guitar sound and
the keyboard added depth and you can have lots of different sounds
with that. So Trevor worked on those arrangements. Having four
vocalists weíve kept the vocal sound as authentic as possible.
Digger: Thatís quite a strength actually having the four vocalists
because Iíve been to shows where they struggle to get the variety
but you had an abundance of riches there.
Chris: The skill is in the arranging which is why I got Trevor to
do it because heís been a top TV arranger for many years. I knew
that when he was going to come up with the ideas it was going to be
Digger: The standard of musicianship and vocals is high in the show.
How did you choose the musicians and singers, how much rehearsal has
there been and are you keeping the same ensemble for all venues?
Chris: Yes, we are keeping the same ensemble for all venues apart
from the M.D. Trevor who lives in Madeira so he will be doing some
and Richard Weedon, who is our second keyboard player and who is
very talented, moves up. And we keep the same vocalists Ė there
was a lot of vocal rehearsal beforehand as obviously everything has
to be learnt from memory.
Digger: It was funny because when I was in the audience I noticed
that several people of a certain age were saying things like ďOoh,
this oneís my favouriteĒ and ďI like this oneĒ and humming
and tapping along. Itís all a part of our consciousness isnít
it, this soundtrack?
Chris: Yes, it is.
Digger: Like when you received that album and said ďWow, Iíd
forgotten how much I liked all of these songs.Ē
Chris: Thatís right, because youíd be surprised just how much
Bacharach is played in general life. You go into a restaurant and
thereís a Bacharach tune. You can go into a launderette, not that
I have done recently, and thereís always a Bacharach tune.
Digger: Thatís handy that if you fancy a bit of Bacharach you can
just pop into a launderette!
Digger: Why is retro perennially so popular?
Chris: Because it generally inspires memories of when you were
having a good time in your youth or early thirties. You always tend
to look back and think those were the good days. A lot of the time
they werenít particularly good days. I mean, for example, a lot of
the Glen Miller stuff came out in some of the most shocking days you
could have gone through Ė the Blitz and things like that, yet they
look back on it as ďOh, we were all together and we did this and
Digger: And we could leave our front door unlocked.
Chris: I doubt if you really wanted to leave your door open.
Digger: How would you describe Bacharach as a songwriter and what
are your personal favourites of his compositions?
Chris: I love a song that he wrote called One Less Bell To
Answer. Thereís another one called Making Love. Theyíre
generally the more obscure ones because you hear the other ones a
lot. And then something will come where he completely surprises you.
I like the way youíll be listening to a very simple set of two
8-Bar phrases and then the tune just disappears into a whole lot of
different keys and just meanders around and then comes back. Itís
just very clever stuff and well thought out. As a result of that I
enjoy most of the tunes anyway. I like Promises Promises and
thatís another clever one that I enjoy.
Yes, youíve got the key and tempo changes that heís famous for
and the extremes that other writers wouldnít dare do.
Chris: A House Is Not A Home has also been taken on by the jazz
fraternity as well. Generally when a songís serious you get all
the jazz musicians wanting to play it too. Bill Evans Ė I had
this recording of his playing A House Is Not A Home and itís just
so beautiful it has stayed with me.
Digger: Is there any possibility we'll see the show at bigger venues
with a bigger cast?
Chris: I donít know what is going to happen to the show.
Weíre doing this test tour which is twenty dates. Weíve done
nine so far. Itís all set-up for a larger cast and Iíve got it
arranged that I can add anything upto twenty strings and some
woodwinds, so itís all there ready for a larger cast depending on
how the actual show is doing. Now, I wonít go any larger than four
singers because that works perfectly.
Digger: Yes, it does.
Chris: But to add strings would give it a very lush feeling.
Digger: Is the current climate effecting the business?
Chris: The current climate is effecting every business and itís
a case of just keeping your head down and driving through it. I
donít think anyone is escaping this apart from if youíre an
engineer and you rebuild engines then you might be experiencing
better things at the moment as people arenít buying new cars but
getting them fixed. Thereís always a spin-off somewhere.
Digger: People seem to be spending more at the supermarkets.
Chris: Yes, so they say. People still like to be entertained and
they like to go out but I think they have to be more selective about
what they do. Thereís a lot of stuff out there and youíll
probably find thereís less people to go round.
Digger: There are some unusual time signatures and tempo changes on
Bacharach's work. How challenging are these?
Chris: They're very challenging for the rhythm section and they
took a lot of getting together. They can still catch you out so
itís definitely an eyes down every night.
Digger: What happens if a mistake is made Ė you just soldier on?
Chris: Solider on and try not to draw any attention to it.
Digger: Do you have any other retro-themed shows in the pipeline or
in your head?
Chris: No, not at the moment. Obviously I run the Syd Lawrence
Orchestra which is very retro and I do a lot of shows with them. And
Iíve got Big Band Leaders and the Great American Songbook and all
those kinds of retro things but Iím going to stick with this for a while and see how this goes. I always think if I want to do
something then Iíll do it whether it's successful or not Ė it
will be great musically and Iíll make sure itís right musically.
Whether it appeals to an audience, it would be nice if it does but if
it doesnít then you put it away on the shelf for when itís
needed again and get on with something else. Bacharach was something
I really wanted to have a go at. The other sixties things, such as
Buddy Holly or Elvis Presley shows donít appeal to me. Thereís
not enough music in those kinds of things, for me.
Digger: With your show, I donít know how many songs it must have
been that were played, maybe fifty, but there were still quite a few
that I could think of that were really well known that werenít
performed. You just run out of time.
Chris: Yes, we put some of them into medleys to give the thing
some flow, but there was Trains and Boats and Planes and Message To
Michael. I could just reel them off the ones that we couldnít do.
Because we just couldnít physically fit them in within the time.
Digger: Well, itís a great show which I thoroughly enjoyed. And
thanks for that Chris and good luck with the remaining eleven and
with your future plans.
more information go to:
Sounds of Burt Bacharach, a musical spectacular by Chris Dean.
Upcoming Gigs: http://www.paulripleymusic.co.uk/Gigs.html
Dean's Syd Lawrence Orchestra