Meditation – Malcolm Wood

It was back in the early nineties that Brett Baker began to make his mark in the world of brass bands. In his teenage years, Brett was playing with bands in the Gloucestershire area, before his decision to go to Salford University to study Economics. A soloist in the British Open Solo Championships in ’93 and ’94, his talent was well known, and when Brett became part of the formidable trombone section at Faireys (along with James Cant and Andy Gillooly) it was that time where he made his mark on the brass band scene.

Since then of course, Brett has become of one the leading players of his generation. The Fairey years saw Brett win the British Open, The Nationals, European & Masters titles, and it was back in 1996, that the young man released his first solo recording, “Bone Idyll”. This was followed by two further CD releases between 1998-2000, the second of, which was a joint disc with leading cornetist, Ian Porthouse.

In March 2000, Brett took up the position of Principal Trombone at Black Dyke. The year 2001 saw the release of “The Eternal Quest”, and bringing everything up-to-date, (from a playing perspective) this latest release, “Meditation”.

The mention of Brett’s years as a player is quite deliberate. This latest release certainly has that air of a personal thank you to all those who have supported and encouraged the young man throughout the past twenty years as a trombonist. In his own words, Brett says publicly what every person involved in top-class banding feels: A huge thank you to the loved ones around him for the support shown, and an apology for the fact that he does not see them as much as he should.

This is a disc which definitely fits into the ‘chill out’ category. No inclusion of some of the lighter solo’s such as “Thoughts of Love” that you would hear at any band concert, or on a disc of concert repertoire from the trombonist. It’s a disc, very similar to David Childs’ “Metamorphosis” in the fact that a virtuoso player can demonstrate their ability as a musician, with no brass band involved whatsoever.

The Black Dyke connection stretches to his fellow trombonists who join him for a couple of numbers, and to Dr Nicholas Childs, (along with other people of the Doyen team) who made it all possible. With contributions from Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Boradin & Bruckner, this is a disc, which encourages relaxation in the comfort of your armchair together with a glass of your favoured tipple. Within minutes, whatever is occupying the mind will be forgotten, as Brett’s playing washes over you in a peaceful, comforting manner.

You’ll discover that nothing is really too demanding on the ear, just first rate trombone playing, lovely tonal qualities, bringing warm effective colours out of the instrument, and numerous examples for any perspective trombone player, who wants to reach the Brett Baker standard, of phrasing and breathe control. The opening of the first track, “Fantasie” by Polish composer, Sigismond Stojowski, sets the tone for the whole disc, and is an example of the aforementioned, tonal qualities, and phrasing.

Other examples of exquisite phrasing and breathe control are heard in Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song”, Boradin’s “Nocturne”, and “Sicilienne” (Faure) and “Hommage A Bach” by Eugene Bozza.

Three highlights are definitely the pieces that feature Brett accompanied by his Black Dyke colleagues, Gary McPhee & Adrian Hirst. Edward Watson’s title track, “Meditation”, inspired by the legend of the ‘Death of King Arthur’, is an example of calmness and tranquillity that this disc brings to the listener. Controlled playing from three (not one) players which warms the heart that you can listen to them again in the form of Bruckner’s “Zwei Aequale”, and Raymond Premru’s, “Two Pieces for Trombones”.

The icing on the cake though comes in the form of Larson’s Three Movement, “Trombone Concerto”. A demonstration of one of the best trombone player’s around and worth the money for the disc alone. The trombone playing from Brett (and his Dyke colleagues) is only half the story though. The majority of the music requires piano accompaniment, and this comes from the very talented, Fenella Haworth-Smith. On numerous occasions, the pianist is the driving force keeping the music flowing like water from the running tap.

This is certainly a disc for the connoisseur of the trombone and a good vehicle for any student who has that desire to find out how to become a Brett Baker of the future. Congratulations (and thank you) to everybody involved in the recording.

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