Salute to Sousa Brett Baker (Trombone) & John Wilson Review by Ronald Holz for the Brass Herald Nov 2013

While the hook for this album is the obscure title piece by a former Souza Band member, Frank Burnell, what Brett Baker provides in this engaging, nearly 80-minute recital, is a broad overview of trombone solo literature from the early Baroque (c. 1620) to the end of what has been called the Golden Age of wind band music (1930s). Brett Baker has made a solid reputation as an outstanding exponent of trombone solos with brass and wind band accompaniment, especially from that Golden Age. Here he branches out, and both the unknown (or as the disc notes put it – 'forgotten') and the more familiar come together for a unique well-played concert. Whether other trombonists revive some of these lesser-known pieces remains to be seen. Thanks to Baker they are at least given another momnet in the sun! I had the joy of steering Brett in certain directions during his research into this repertoire. As a result, I found that some pieces did come to life once again and deserve a second chance. One example of this is Frederick Innes' delightful Sea Shells Waltz dating from 1880. Written by a 'Paganini of the trombone' it maintains its charm. Innes was British, moving to America in the 1870s just as the wind band scen took off, so to speak. Eventually he returned to Europe as a featured soloist, and so the piece seems symbolic of this whole project, soloist and music. Other favourites for me included not only the virtuosic pieces, rather the lyrical, slow melody items, especially Edwin Franko Goldman's elegantly sentimental Heaven of Love, from 1933.

I was pleased to hear Baker tackle early trombone literature. The first two pieces listed are accompanied by Harpsichord, rather than piano. On these Baker provides a more restrained, less 'Romantic' sound, but not without good emotive content. The ornaments he shares are not overdone and to the point. The two early 19th-century works by Meyer and Novakovsky were unknown to me – and I am sure to many others, but they will probably get some future attention as a result of Baker's readings. The bulk of the recital fits Baker's strengths – warm rich sound, incredibly flexible, easy sounding technique and joyful interpretation. In the bulk of the programme he pays hommage to a series of great trombone and low brass soloists of the Golden Age in remarkably fine style. Frederick Innes, Clay Smith, Leo Zimmerman, Simone Mantia, Ernest Clarke (trombonist and brother to famous cornetist, Herbert) and Joseph de Luca were amoung the better-known of their day.

The overall production is excellent, including an excellent boolet with extensive notes on the music by Baker himself. While this disc will particularly appeal to trombonists, low brass players and students of band music, I believe it will also appeal to the widest range of listeners. Enjoy this unique collection so well played by Baker and his fine accompanist John Wilson.

Ronald Holz 

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