This album, featuring Brett Baker, traverses similar ground to the soloistís recent Faith Encounter CD, with even one track appearing in both collections. Mark Ford directs a lively opener in Mike Fitzpatrickís tone-poem, Psalm 98. The composer certainly takes verses four to nine literally and makes ëa joyful noise to the Lordí, complete with the brass instruments and the roaring sea mentioned in the text. Brett Bakerís first solo is Bill Geldardís sublime arrangement of Joseph Kosmaís classic, Autumn Leaves. This is a most sensitive piece of playing, well-supported by the band in Geldardís imaginative musical description of the descending foliage. The mood abruptly shifts with the title track of the album, Herbert L. Clarkeís The Southern Cross, arranged for solo trombone by one of the trombonists of Kew Band, Darren Cole. Needless to say, Brett Baker does it more than justice. Mark Freeh is a name well known to both wind and brass band musicians and his arrangement of Jimmy van Heusenís All the Way provides an effective contrast to the fireworks of the preceding track. However, the name of Percy Code, composer of the next track, may not be so well known to us ëpommiesí. He was an outstanding Australian cornet player, composer and conductor who was invited to join Besses oí thí Barn Band as principal cornet during a visit by the band to Australia in 1912. His cornet solo, Zelda, is probably his best known composition, but The Emperor (heard here) was his only trombone solo. It bears comparison with the trombone solos of Arthur Pryor and is dispatched with aplomb by Brett Baker and Kew Band.
The band features alone in Joseph Turrinís moving elegy, Hymn for Diana before Brett Baker once more comes to the fore in The Nightingale by Harold Moss, famous Wingates principal trombone in the inter-war period. Sarah then makes another appearance (mistakenly attributed to William Broughtonís brother, Bruce, in the booklet notes!) before Don Lusherís Suite for Trombone involves Brett Baker in some dazzling showmanship, the gaiety of the outer movements making a fine contrast to the mellowness of the central section. Despite the superficial simplicity of the material, the piece is really very demanding for the soloist and involves Brett Baker in some breathtaking trombone acrobatics. However, the next track gives him a chance to relax a little as he plays Goff Richardsí arrangement of the lovely Maori melody, Pokarekare Ana. The album closes with Mike Fitzpatrickís Rhapsody for Trombone, an unpretentious showpiece which falls easily on the ear. The composer is principal trombone of Kew Band as well as an instructor at the Australian Defence Force School of Music, and his inside knowledge of the trombone and the brass band are well in evidence.
This album makes a good companion for Brett Bakerís other new album and, apart from the ubiquitous Sarah, there is no duplication of repertoire. My only criticism is that a few of the tracks have been recorded in an unsympathetic acoustic which makes some of the textures rather obscure in louder passages. That said, this is an enjoyable collection of pieces and shows the qualities of soloist and band to good effect. Anyone interested in the solo trombone should warm to this CD, although fans of Brett Baker will need little persuasion to add it to their collections.
British Bandsman, Saturday 10th March 2007