Brett Baker (Trombone), Maidstone Wind Symphony
Conducted by Jonathan Crowhurst
Review by Andrew Justice (Principal Trombone, ISB)
Wind ensembles are a growing phenomenon that started originally in the Royal Courts of Europe in the 18th – century, but in their modern form in the US in the 1950s (Frederick Fennell’s Eastman Wind Ensemble being regarded as the fore-runner of the contemporary US model) They have spread across the world from Japan to Norway, Australia to Canada. Now often formed from school, military, brass band, or orchestral wind players, all with different styles and approaches, the standard of performance and blend of sounds being achieved is unrecognizable from the earliest days of the court ensembles, and regularly attract leading composers to write for the genre, as well as adapting orchestral or brass-only compositions for the expanded wind format.
It is against this background that the Maidstone Wind Symphony (formerly Maidstone Winds) was founded by Brendon Le Page in 1998. The orchestra originally and primarily consisted of former members of Maidstone Youth Music Society and Kent Youth Wind Orchestra. Jonathan Crowhurst was appointed as the orchestra’s third Musical Director in 2010 following Brendon Le Page and Jeremy Cooper. The orchestra changed its name to Maidstone Wind Symphony and made its first appearance at the Exchange Studio in June 2010. Since that time they have performed regularly with leading brass, woodwind, and percussion soloists, and have now produced their first CD featuring Brett Baker, the renowned trombonist who is among the most recorded brass artists in the world.
Brett himself has performed and recorded with wind ensembles before, his first such recording ‘Mask’ being in 2004 with the Band of The Light Division. He has toured extensively around the world and performed on over 100 CDs as a soloist or ensemble performer with many of the world’s leading brass and wind bands. He is currently Principal Trombone with the world-famous Black Dyke Band in Yorkshire.
The repertoire for this CD includes 3 major works for Trombone and Wind ensemble, all being in Concerto format of 3 movements in varying degrees of complexity and designed to fully explore and exploit the range, moods, and sensitivity of the trombone. Although in similar format, each Concerto is richly varied, which means we are really listening to nine individual pieces linked within 3 concerto ‘ envelopes’, and as such the CD offers a great listening experience for anyone interested in brass and wind playing of the highest caliber.
Rob Wiffin is a former Director of Music with the RAF, a trombonist himself, and currently writing, arranging, and teaching at Kneller Hall Military School of Music. His Concerto for Trombone (written in 2010) includes a particularly moving slow movement, which pays tribute to the memory of the renowned Arthur Wilson, orchestral trombonist and teacher. I also particularly enjoyed the references to established works such as Ray Steadman-Allan’s ‘The Eternal Quest’ and Gordon Jacob’s own Trombone Concerto, two other composers who know well the possibilities of the trombone.
The second work is the T-Bone Concerto, completed in 1996. This slightly tongue-in-cheek (in more ways than one!) title belies the extraordinary level of skill and stamina required to perform this work, written by Dutch composer and trombonist Johan de Meij. It is true to say that Brett displays a RARE skill and level of musicianship in this particular MEDIUM, and deserves a loud WELL DONE for his dedication to the art and technique of trombone performance!
The third Concerto is by Philip Sparke written in 2006 and first performed by Olaf Ott, Principal Trombone of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I particularly enjoyed the samba idiom of the final movement, underlining the variety of musical ideas on display in this CD.
The Maidstone Wind Symphony adds a track of their own to those accompanying Brett Baker, and chose to feature Canterbury Chorale, a piece written by Dutch composer Jan Van der Roost as a musical response to their own county landmark of Canterbury Cathedral. Its’ soaring architecture is well reflected in this sonorous piece which is a popular brass and wind composition around the world as a result of it’s representation of an inspired and inspiring cultural pinnacle.
These words also come to mind in summarizing MWS’ landmark first recording and their achievement in showcasing one of the world’s great trombone recording artists, an inspiring recording with a musician at the pinnacle of his career.