Brett Baker and the Flowers Band's MYTHS AND LEGENDS is a “concept album” moving through world premiere recordings with an epic fantasy theme replete with a brief narration by Gary Curtin. For those ITA members in places without a developed brass band culture or community, there are elements of surprise and awe at the versatility of a British brass band sound and the forays the Flowers Band takes toward op idioms.
Some pieces fit the thematic element effortlessly. The Fire and the Phoenix, and the Collapse of the Silver Bridge engage the premise of this concept album providing a beautiful and cinematic portray of mythical tales. Works like From a Kingdom of Clouds and M6 Troll pull the trombone out of the brass band context, placing it in a duet with marimba and electronic backing, respectively. The differences here are artistically enjoyable and thematically consistent, but abruptly stretch the musical seamlessness tying the album together.
Ending with Fandango, while extremely well executed, does not provide a conclusion to the albums concept. Instead Joseph Turrin's piece feels like a departure from the otherworldly thematic material that proceeds it.
Musically much of this album is a canvas for the virtuosity an expression that Brett Baker continually displays. The album runs a gamut from a modern interpretation of Pryor-esque theme and variations in Slipstream, to a showpiece set over rock grooves in Pursuing Atalanta and an ethereal lyrical quality in From a Kingdom of Clouds. The Flowers Band once supported by the defunct Flowers Brewery thankfully continues to uphold their unique cultural tradition since the brewary no longer can. On this recording, their refinement as an ensmeble is showcased and enhances Baker's performances.
So while each piece on MYTHS AND LEGENDS is enjoyable individually, the goal of an interrelated “concept album” is not fully realized. A complete hearing lacks cohesion, a bit like a disjunct movie script. But like many films, the performances are outstanding even if there are a few plot holes. Bravo to Brett Baker and the Flowers Band on striving to push the envelope of what a brass band album can be.