Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

FORESYTHE, Reginald

(b 28 May 1907, London; d there 23 December 1958) Pianist, composer and bandleader, his father West African and his mother German. Educated in England, he worked in the USA in the late 1920s, composing and arranging for Earl Hines, Paul Howard, Paul Whiteman and others; he returned to London and formed an unusual nine-piece band with six reeds (two clarinets, three saxes and a bassoon; no brass) and recorded a dozen titles '33-4 for EMI/Columbia (plus two piano duets with Arthur Young); back in the USA he recorded four titles for American Columbia early '35 with identical instrumentation including Benny Goodman and Johnny Mince on clarinets and John Kirby on bass; that year his 'Southern Holiday (A Phantasy Of Negro Music)' was recorded on two sides of a 78 by Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra. In '35-6 he made another twelve titles for Decca in England, and he recorded in Milan '48 with an Italian rhythm section for Italian HMV. Albert McCarthy wrote that his music had 'a curiously disquieting quality even when overtly dealing with such a pastoral theme as "Landscape".' The technical details and emotional atmosphere of his music were unique, but he was too nonconformist for most critics then or later. He ended his days playing piano in London drinking clubs.

He wrote 'Serenade To A Wealthy Widow' and recorded it in 1933, but Decca did not release it. Fats Waller recorded it the following year as "Serenade For A Wealthy Widow", and both titles were comon. Foresythe's 'Two Hymns To Darkness' included 'Deep Forest' (also recorded by Hines) and 'Lament For Congo'; some of his titles ('Dodging A Divorcee', 'Autocrat Before Breakfast', 'Revolt Of The Yesmen') may have had little to do with the music, like some of Ellington's (another tune was 'Duke Insists'). Persistently underrated and ignored, Foresythe's work cries out for a CD compilation.