Bakers Dozen CD Review – Vernon Briggs

Bakers Dozen

 Accompanied by The flowers Band.  Released 1998.

Bakers Dozen CD Cover - 20080526193032.jpg

Vernon Briggs, Brass Band World:

Brett Baker seems amazingly comfortable in the rang between G above the treble clef stave and its octave above (even reaching the higher A also on two occasions here). Thus as a light high-tessitura trombonist he has few equals, but there is more to his artistic armoury than that as he also has a finely rounded orchestral brass tone in the middle and lower registers when the style requires it, all harnessed within an impressively secure technique.

Half the items on this disc exploit his special talent in cantabile high register work, and Darrol Barry's Capriccio explores both this and Bakers natural rhythmic talents. Feelings, Take up Thy Cross (arr Broughton) and a smooth smoochy Getting Sentimental Over You (out Dorseying Dorsey) also follow in this vein. Bolivar too operates at fairly high altitude and features some lip-trills and slurred arpeggios of dazzling facility. Furthermore Herbert Clarke's delicately decorative cornet solo The Debutante is in this adaptation for trombone almost more attractive than the original.

Then there is the charming Concerto for Oboe by Telemann (transcribed for trombone and brass ensemble) which effectively takes us back to the early 18th century, and four other more substantial compositions (three of very recent provenance). Philip Harper's Haunted House is something like a modernist sequel to Slaughter on 10th Avenue with a strong trombone concertante element – a novel work of atmospheric sound effects ingeniously devised in terms of brass scoring.

Rodney Newton's 10 minute Phantasm also illustrates a story, this time telling of a miner's meeting with a ghost, but it has more developed musical structure for the listener to follow, and the soloist shapes this quite strongly and convincingly. I've heard a number of trombonists  revive Leidzen's Concertino recently but always with some slight disappointment. Thus Brett Baker's performance pleases me as te best of the 90's versions but because of his great technical security he makes it sound almost too easy, thus taking out of it some of the drama and suspense. So for interpretation I would still return to Brian Midgley's more expressive account with Norwich Citadel Band in Fine City Brass, 1985 but there's undoubtedly a lot to enjoy in Baker's brilliantly facile performance here too.

The most substantial piece on this disc is Andrew Duncan's Trombone Concerto which has been revised since its first recording three years ago and now makes a strong claim to become a significant concert number of broad appeal. It is a seriously worked out composition with a firmly tonal base and some good thematic ideas; the character of its outer movements is positive and bright and (together with the central Lullaby) these offer many opportunities to display the intriguing versatility of the trombone. Brett Baker presents it all with skill and confidence and is particularly exciting in the Rondo.

With its balanced variety of repertoire this is quite an important album for all trombone lovers to have.

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