Conductor • Piano
• 1913 — 2002
Often appears with
Stanley Black is well-known both as a conductor and composer, although he began his career as quite a talented jazz pianist and arranger. As a conductor, he led various ensembles ranging from dance bands to symphony orchestras; as a composer, he wrote numerous film scores, title themes for radio shows, and other works.
Black began studying piano at the age of seven. He began composing in his pre-teens, enjoying the distinction at 12 of having his first work performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra during a broadcast concert. Black soon began doing jazz arrangements and won a competition with one in 1929 sponsored by the jazz publication Melody Maker. By this time, he was already a brilliant jazz pianist and soon began to appear on recordings with the bands of Harry Roy and Lew Stone. American artists Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, on tour in England, engaged him to play on their recordings. Black developed a reputation in the 1930s mainly for his jazz pianism and arranging, but when on tour in South America with Harry Roy's band in 1938, he became strongly attracted to Latin American music, thereafter becoming identified with it in numerous performances and recordings. He signed a contract with Decca Records in 1944 and began regularly appearing on recordings over the next several decades. Among the many album titles from his early years are Jerome Kern's Symphonic Suite, Some Enchanted Evening, Festival in Costa Rica, Cuban Moonlight, Music of Cole Porter, and Sophisticate in Cuba. Black's initial recording career with Decca coincided with his appointment as conductor of the BBC Dance Orchestra in 1944, a post he held until 1952. In 1947, he began writing film scores and eventually became music director on many film projects as well. Some of his better-known film scores include It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), Mr. Potts Goes to Moscow (1952), Wonderful to Be Young! (The Young Ones in the U.S.; 1961), and The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961), where he wrote both the music score and supervised the musical direction. He was associated with more than 100 films either as composer, music director, or both. His last effort as a film composer came with the 1977 Valentino. In 1968, Black accepted the appointment as conductor of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra for one season. He also briefly served as associate conductor of the Osaka (Japan) Philharmonic Orchestra, beginning in 1971. He continued to appear as guest conductor throughout the 1970s and 1980s with a variety of orchestras. During this time, he also continued to make recordings for Decca, his efforts including Fiddler on the Roof and a four-volume series of popular film score excerpts entitled Film Spectacular. Black was an immensely popular figure throughout his career in England and was cited in 1986 for his artistic achievements when he was conferred an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He remained active in the 1990s as a conductor. Among his last appearances was a charity concert in Barbican Hall in 1994, where he was joined by violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Many of Black's recordings have been reissued in the early 2000s, including Music of Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern (2000), and Gershwin Goes Latin (2002).