Boneman Walking Brett Baker (trombone) and Fenella Howarth-Head – Reviewed by Peter Bale 4barsrest

In producing ‘Boneman Walking’, Brett Baker has drawn together a varied programme of attractive solos played with piano accompaniment.

Some are new commissions, whilst others he has enjoyed performing over the years. In Fenella Haworth-Head he has found an ideal musical partner – a sympathetic, empathetic accompanist.

On the lighter side

The title track is a high-energy opener, enlivened by syncopation, whilst much of the repertoire is on the lighter side of the scale, including an exuberant Latin American number, ‘Salsa Panadero’, complete with added percussion and vocal contributions.

Steve Jones also adds some sensitive rhythmic backing to ‘Brasilia’, whilst the alternating rhythms of ‘Bolivar’ are full of energy and vitality.

Effective transcriptions

Brett has included a couple of transcriptions from the classics, with Vivaldi’s ‘Largo’from ‘Winter’ and Mascagni’s ‘Intermezzo’ from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ both delivered with sensitive phrasing and admirable breath control.

Ronald Binge’s ‘The Waterfall’, may seem an unlikely choice to perform as a duet but it works remarkably well, as does Dorothy Gates’ lightly syncopated setting of Ivor Bosanko’s Salvation Army song ‘His Provision’.

The personal touch

Bill Broughton wrote ‘Sarah’ for an Australian tour of 2005, naming it after Brett’s wife, and it reflects the composer’s own fondness for the instrument’s upper register, whilst Philip Wilby’s ‘Cool Shades’, is a neat bit of optically inspired ‘street cred’.

Philip Sparke’s popular ‘Capriccio’ is played with authority and style, whilst Andrea Price’s ‘Nightfall in Soao Pessoa’, written specifically for this album, provides a more tranquil contrast to the livelier items, eliciting persuasive playing against a smoothly-flowing accompaniment.

A mixed trio

Several traditional solos are included, although only ‘Atlantic Zephyrs’, was originally intended for the trombone. 

‘Demelza’, written under a pseudonym by the late Goff Richards, was originally written for soprano cornet, but is also often heard on tenor horn. It just about comes off – although you suspect the flame haired temptress of ‘Poldark’ fame, didn’t quite have such a deep throated tessitura.  

In contrast, Simon Kerwin arrangement of the famous cornet Damare cornet solo‘Cleopatra Polka’ sees Brett in admirably mastering its technical challenges, including triple-tonguing the great James Shepherd would be proud of.

Challenging Concerto

The releases major work is ‘Concerto for Trombone’ by Rob Wiffin, himself a noted trombone soloist before rising to the high ranking position of Senior Director of Music in the Royal Air Force.

The composer acknowledges influences such as Gordon Jacob and Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Eternal Quest’ in the somewhat declamatory first movement, whilst the central interlude combines the feel of a Richard Strauss song with echoes of Sibelius’ ‘Seventh Symphony’. 

The third movement introduces a more jazz-inflected style, and is generally lighter in mood.

Although there are some tricky figurations for the soloist to negotiate Brett produces some striking multiphonics in the cadenza before closing with a rousing flourish.

Peter Bale

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