Spotlight on ……

Gary Williams

Garry Williams

I was very young when I first became aware of Matt Monro, maybe eight years old. Even at that age I was instinctively drawn to standards and the great singer. My friends all thought I was odd (actually, so did I!) because I listened to Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Eddie Fisher and of course, Matt Monro.

Describing his music, well, of course, it’s all about that incredible voice. My favourite female singer is Ella Fitzgerald whose style is redolent of Mel Tormé’s perfect intonation, great technique and wonderful sense of timing. In the same way, Karen Carpenter seems to echo some of Matt’s special qualities: warmth, rich velvety tone and a sense you can listen to them sing your favourite song and relax, knowing it’s in safe hands.

It’s hard to pick a favourite. I just love ‘Walk Away’, especially the opening “las”. I often use that as a warm up exercise before going on stage myself! Other favourites include: ‘Music To Watch Girls By’, ‘Didn’t We’, ‘I’m Just Breezing Along the Breeze’. Sorry, I couldn’t just give you one!  Anything that came out of Matt’s mouth sounded incredible, so if there’s anything I don’t like it’s because I just don’t care for the song in general. ‘Release Me’, for example; I think Matt was better than that.
 
Matt became known as King of the Movie’s after recording the theme title tracks for such notables as The Italian Job, From Russia With Love, Born Free, the Quiller Memorandum, The Sea Wolves and Tomorrow Never Comes and I love them all. I always sing a medley of ‘Born Free’ and ‘Russia’. They’re such great singer’s songs with those lovely soaring notes. I think Matt’s style was so well suited to Bond movies. I was only thinking the other day how his English sense of sophistication really helped to enhance the Bond brand; quite unlike some of the crap they’ve seen fit to open Bond movies with since.

Gary Williams

I think the singer should receive an Oscar, as should the arranger. It’s the job of the arranger and singer to deliver the intent and sentiment of the writer as sincerely as possible. A song, especially a recorded song, is the result of a team of people and each one is as critical as the next.

I never got to see Matt perform live. I was too young and if I hear anyone complain about getting old I think to myself: “At least you had the chance to see Matt Monro, Count Basie and Sinatra perform”.

At least we have the records. A point in case is that ‘The Rare Monro’ was five years in the making but it was a valuable addition to the catalogue and I can’t wait for a follow-up. up?
There is such a nice mixture of songs from different periods of Matt’s career. I love ‘All That Remains’, ‘By The Way’ and ‘During One Night’.

It’s such a shame that Matt never brought out a Christmas album although he did record several tracks. I love Christmas songs and it’s amazing to me that Matt never recorded a seasonal album. I wonder why that never happened.

Of course in the advent of technology we now have DVDs as well. Considering a few years ago there was thought to be no existing material on the singer, for me, it’s a double bonus. As a fan, it’s always such a pleasure to see Matt work; as a singer there is always so much I can learn. After watching the live Australian concert I started doing ‘How Do You Do? In my act, it’s such a great ‘ice-breaker’. I haven’t got the new Odeon release ‘The Ultimate Performer’ yet but the more the better. What could be better than having even more Matt Monro to choose from?

Gary Williams


Michele recently, kindly, gave me one of her dad’s ties. I wear it for many performances and spend a few minutes talking about Matt and his music. It’s always so gratifying how American, Australian and Asian audiences still love his music and think of him as one of the greats.

I know Matt’s son has followed his footsteps into the business, but I haven’t had the chance to see him work yet. Of course his dad casts a long shadow and everyone will compare him to his dad and he simply cannot sound the same. He’ll have his own voice and style. I have been often likened to Sinatra because I sing a lot of his music, but I always quickly tell an audience “I am not a Sinatra impersonator, I am just a fan,” at which they stop comparing me to the great man and judge me on my own terms. I imagine Matt Jr. does a similar thing.

Matt Monro is a hard act to follow. His contribution to the British Music Industry is considerable. He put British singers on the map. His legacy is up there with the greats and it’s something we should all be proud of. There’s been no one in his league since.

To try and describe Matt Monro in three words is very difficult. I didn’t know him personally, so I can only describe his voice: warm, rich, velvet.


Gary Williams
 
 
 
http://www.garywilliams.co.uk

 

 

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