A Celebration of A Celebration of Sammy Fain

During the publicity build-up to the recent release of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, one tune kept running through my head: the title theme to the original Disney animation, which was written by Sammy Fain.

Never much of a fan of the 1951 Disney cartoon, I only really got to know this lovely number when I received a tape recording of it from my dad while I was a student spending a year in Paris. It was from an album entitled A Celebration of Sammy Fain – Are You Having Any Fun?, by a quintet co-led by tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and pianist Keith Ingham.

My regular parcels from home not only kept me up to date with dad’s latest CD purchases but also meant that I had plenty of options available to me musically on the long walk home each morning and night, and on the Metro – where the Sony Walkman was undoubtedly a girl’s best defence against unwelcome conversations.

The tape recording of the Harry Allen-Keith Ingham CD was one of the musical highlights of my year in Paris. It really is a glorious affair which not only showcases the marvellous playing of the band, but also the fact that Sammy Fain deserves to be a much-better known name than it is.

Alongside such well-known songs as Secret Love, You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me, When I Take My Sugar to Tea and I’ll Be Seeing You are several beautiful ballads, among them the afore-mentioned Alice in Wonderland and the theme tune for the 1961 movie Tender is the Night.

I’ve never heard another version of this song – and, given how exquisite this version is, I’ll never need to.  It’s the perfect evocation of a balmy, sultry, romantic night and one of the best examples of Allen’s skills as a balladeer.

Another highlight is the elegant solo feature by Keith Ingham on the similarly sumptuous ballad A Very Precious Love, and an uptempo take on That Old Feeling.

I must have worn my original tape out by the end of the year because among the various jazz discs I was given by my dad that December, for my 21st birthday,  was my own copy of the CD.

* The Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet: A Celebration of Sammy Fain? – Are You Having Any Fun? (Audiophile ACD-261)

Personnel: Harry Allen (tenor sax), Keith Ingham (piano & arrangements), John Pizzarelli (guitar), Dennis Irwin (bass), Oliver Jackson (drums), recorded 1990.

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