Sunday, 14 February 2016

Had this Album arrived on my desk a week or two earlier it would have been on the long list for consideration as Solo CDs of the year. The Continuity in Brett Bakers Musical Journey has been constructed through the creative skills of Christopher Bond, who has composed the connecting tissue that enables the music from Brett Baker and Flowers Band (Paul Holland) to play without any hiatus. Christopher Bonds ‘Wide Screen’ opener, The Fire and the Phoenix, includes a spoken (if that’s the right word) introduction by Black Dyke’s principal euphonium Gary Curtin in his best Hollywood cartoon voice and that sets the tone for the album. Bond’s scene setter flows straight into the most substantial track on the album, Divine Odyssey by Andrew Mackereth. It wasn’t until I heard echoes of Peter Graham, Leslie Condon, Ray Steadman-Allen and some familiar trombone solos from the Salvation Army repertoire that I was aware that we’d moved on – skilful stuff Mr. Bond. Divine Odyssey finds Brett Baker soaring effortlessly into the stratosphere – heady stuff Mr. Baker! From a Kingdom of Clouds fuses of a folk-like melody and minimalist repetitive figuration from the marimba of its composer Andrea Price. We are taken to the heights of Mount Olympus for an oasis of evocative calm only to be brought centre stage of an epic fantasy movie in Simon Oliver’s dramatic and noisy item The Collapse of the Silver Bridge. The from the legend of the Mothman we are whisked seamlessly to the shores of Alabama, where according to the Welsh legend of Prince Madoc, there stands a stone in his memory. Myfrydodau (Reflections) is the work of Richard Huw Cole, whose variations on an unheard theme are full of energy and bite. A stratospheric cadenza leads to the comedic rough and tumble of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Slipsteam.

I was intrigued by the concept and sound world Lucy Pankhurst’s M6 Troll for trombone and backing track. Brett Baker is at his technical and imaginative best in this unusual setting. It’s an intriguing piece but it feels a little out of place in what is essentially a programme of ‘lighter’ music, especially when followed by Roger Trigg’s ‘commercial’ sounding Pursuing Atalanta and Jonathan Bates’ nostalgic At the Royal Parks, complete with nightingale song pinched from Respighi’s Pines of Rome!

Richard Rock’s brilliant evocation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has stayed long in the memory for the clarity of the writing and the persuasive musical journey conveyed, bringing out the best from soloist and band. For this listener Richard Rock’s piece or Divine Odyssey would have provided a satisfying journey’s end. Cloud Rider (Dan Price) might have benefitted from being further up the running order and Fandango (Joseph Turrin) with Guy Conter (trumpet) sounds in this context a bit like an afterthought – a well-played encore perhaps. Myths and Legends is another fascinating listen from Brett Baker – well designed, documented and recorded.

Paul Hindmarsh

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