It’s rather appropriate that this latest release comes with the added strap line, ‘…and other forgotten trombone solos’, as Brett Baker certainly unearths some long lost gems (and a number are really from the mists of time).
The polished production includes substantial sleeve notes covering the trombone’s history as well as the music recorded, bringing the scholarship behind the project to life for the ordinary listener.
A closer look at some of the dates in the running order reveals periods when the art of trombone playing almost faded into obscurity, and indeed, both Handel and Haydn had to send to Germany for players when including parts in their oratorios.
The earliest pieces are played on a reproduction of a Baroque sackbut with a lovely harpsichord accompaniment from John Wilson.
Brett Baker amply illustratesthe singing qualities for which the instrument of the period was prized; with gentle attack and smoothly flowing lines.
The works by Meyer and Novakovsky are both attractive and elegant; the former being described as being written for the bass trombone but still exhibiting a surprisingly wide ambit.
The virtuoso Karl T. Queisser was associated with both pieces, and after his death the trombone largely fell out of use as a solo instrument. The variations in the latter work certainly bear similarities with those by Gräfe and David.
From recording catalogues around the start of the 20th century, it would appear that both cornet and trombone solos were very much in demand for the gifted practitioners; many of whom wrote their own pieces to showcase their skills.
Works by the noted ace Arthur Pryor are not included (the best have probably received sufficient exposure), but many other lesser known players from the heyday of the concert band are represented.
Keen rivalries of the time are deliciously reignited.
Frederick Neil Innes, for example, having been recruited by the Gilmore Band with its noted cornet star Jules Levy, would stand up and play the same solo on his trombone. The competition became so intense the pair would eventually only be featured on alternate programmes.
The fearsome musical challenges remain; with Brett tackling them with tasteful aplomb, well-supported by his sympathetic accompanist.
However, it is some of the charming ballads that seem to create a more lasting impression: Ernest Clarke’s ‘Devotion’ offers a welcome respite from all the note-spinning.
In contrast, the title track, ‘Salute to Sousa’, discovered in manuscript form as recently as 2011, is particularly testing, with echoes of Arthur Pryor’s writing and stylistic nuance.
Many of the works here deserve to be much better known, and can certainly hold their own alongside more established repertoire.
As to why they have been neglected remains a mystery – although many performers would reserve the pieces for their own exclusive use rather than have them published.
You suspect several have simply been put away in a dusty library and forgotten.
As a result, Brett Baker has done a great service in unearthing them once more – and in presenting them with such obvious relish and affection.