Rathamataz Brett Baker (Trombone) with Black Dyke Band – Review by Peter Bale for 4barsrest 2009

Brett Baker
Black Dyke Band
Conductor: Dr Nicholas Childs
Doyen: DOY CD261
Total Playing Time: 71.46 mins

Many musicians and artistes would acknowledge the influence of a mentor as their careers have progressed. In his latest recording, Brett Baker takes this one step further by appending a dedication to each track, explaining how each person named has had an impact on his playing in some way or other. 

The trombonists cited cover a wide range of genres from classical to swing, many having combined brass band playing with involvement in other spheres, and there are special mentions for conductors Nicholas Childs and David King.

Excellent support

Brett Baker has done much to promote new music for the trombone, and several of the pieces included are recent compositions commissioned by him. At the other end of the spectrum are familiar favourites such as the two Arthur Pryor contributions, and several other unpublished arrangements. 

Brett receives excellent support throughout from his own band, Black Dyke, under the meticulous direction of Nicholas Childs, and the sixteen-page booklet provides full details both on the music itself and also the reasons behind the various dedications.

Something new

The disc opens with Gavin Higgins' 'Tango', which bears an obvious affinity with his “Freaks!” (recorded by Brett on his previous release “Shout!”) but without some of the more manic qualities of the latter work. 

Premiered by Brett at the Black Dyke Festival 2009, it incorporates fast and slow tangos, with shorter interludes, all serving to showcase his formidable talent. Whilst indisputably modern in style, there is nothing to scare away the more traditional fan, and the same could be said of Andrew Duncan's “Rathamataz” that gives the recording its title. 

Rhapsodic in style and incorporating several cadenzas and short episodes, it depicts the ups and downs encountered on a journey, exploring various aspects of playing technique en route. 

Soloist and band are frequently involved in a dialogue, one responding to the other, avoiding any danger of the trombone being over-powered by the accompaniment.


Perhaps the most challenging item for the listener is Derek Bourgeois's “Concertino for Trombone (Nightmare)”, which is strongly influenced by the same composer's test piece “Blitz”

Derek Bourgeois is no stranger to writing for the trombone, with his “Trombone Concerto” being popular in both brass band and wind band versions, his “Sonata for Trombone and Band” having been recorded by Ian Bousfield with the YBS band, and a “Concerto for Four Trombones and Band”. 

The at times aggressive writing sets some fearsome challenges, which Brett overcomes with aplomb, never allowing mere technique to obscure the underlying musical line.

There are also hurdles to overcome in Philip Wilby's “White Knuckle Ride”, written for Nick Hudson and previously recorded by Brett with the Williams Fairey Band. Literally a rollercoaster of a piece, the reading captures all the thrills and spills of the amusement park in a few short, exhilarating minutes.

Something old

The two Arthur Pryor pieces demand a very flexible approach, as can be heard in early recordings made by the composer, and Brett makes good use of rubato which serves to highlight the contrast between the more melodic sections and the display passages, with the slide sometimes moving at lightning speed. 

Both pieces are played with a great sense of fun which is most contagious.

Something blue

In the world of jazz and swing, the trombone has developed a niche of its own, frequently playing silky, smooth lines at the top of the register, as exemplified by players such as Tommy Dorsey. 

Both soloist and band handle the transition into a swing style pretty well, and there are only a few instances of discomfort, such as in the upper reaches of “DL Blues”, quite an achievement when one considers that the original versions were intended for such players as Don Lusher, Derek Southcott and Steven Walkley. 

Bill Geldard's “I Love you Porgy”, with its effective laid-back style and use of vibrato, and “Alfie” (arr Morris) are particularly successful, the relaxed playing allowing for smooth, flowing lines.

Something borrowed

As for the remaining items, “Time for Peace” (Peter Graham) is an adaptation by Brett of the horn solo version of this melody, which is extracted from the test piece “Essence of Time”. 

This places the trombone in a higher register than the original soloist, which seems to suit the instrument to a tee. 

“Berceuse de Jocelyn” (Benjamin Goddard), meanwhile, is full of Gallic charm and sophistication, played with obvious affection, and “Arrividerci Roma” (rather strangely spelt in the otherwise excellent booklet!) oozes Mediterranean warmth in a trombone trio based on an arrangement originally featuring Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to whom it is dedicated.

Peter Bale

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