A Perfect Arrangement

By Louis Barfe

I Iike radio programmes that tell me things I never knew. The first of Mike Batt’s two-parter By arrangement (radio 2, available on iplayer) hit the ground running by informing me within the first three minutes who had done the stunning string arrangement on Colin Blunstone’s ‘say You don’t mind’. The answer was Christopher  Gunning, a distinguished composer who later did the Tv Poirot soundtracks and who now writes symphonies. having loved the record for years, I feel faintly ashamed that I’d never looked up the arranger credit before now, but then mike wouldn’t have been able to tell me something new.

The shows are an exercise in giving credit where it’s due to the unsung heroes of the recording studio, the arrangers who orchestrate the accompaniment. Batt’s the perfect person to lead us on this journey of discovery, for, as well as being the king of the Wombles and a hit artist in his own right, he’s arranged for just about everyone. In the first part, Batt covered Ivor Raymonde's scores for Dusty Springfield, the Motown sound, Quincy Jones’s work with  Michael Jackson and explained Glenn miller’s clever substitution of alto saxophone with clarinet as the lead reed instrument, giving his band its unique sound. he also waxed lyrical about Gordon Jenkins, both in Frank Sinatra mode and working with Harry Nilsson, and explained nelson riddle’s strategy for building a Sinatra chart.

It’s quite a brisk tour around the dots, but it’s been put together with care. nowhere was this more obvious than when Batt talked about the 47 takes demanded by Sinatra on I’ve Got You under my skin, and the increasing fatigue of trombonist Milt Bernhart. many broadcasters announce Bernhart’s blast and then play the later remake, for which Dick Nash took the solo. Not Mike Batt. Spiffing.