The Southern Cross – Howard Taylor

The Southern Cross with Kew Band Melbourne Australia Conducted by Mark Ford

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I think there must be a secret bet on involving Brett Baker and Steven Mead to see just how many different bands and musical ensembles they can record a CD with.  Mead is probably winning the wager at present but Baker would not be far behind.

Not that this is a bad thing of course, they are two of the best at their business within the brass world and given half the chance who wouldn't record with these masters.

First impressions with this CD are I'm won over right away.  There has obviously been a great deal of thought put into this whole project. The sleeve and packaging are of the highest quality, this is a very professional job. It makes a refreshing change to some of the AV products that have come out recently with people trying to save every cent they can only to have them fall apart in your hands every time you play them.  

And so to the new release ‘The Southern Cross', and what a cracking new piece in Psalm 98 to start off the disc. The bands Solo trombone player, Mike Fitzpatrick has two of his pieces featured, the first, and the Composer states: Psalm 98 is a musical journey inspired by the words of the biblical passage “Sing to the Lord a new song''. This grew on me more every time I heard it.  The sounds of the basses were very impressive.  It is a very clever piece of writing which, I hope, will get many more airings.

There are some solos that really suit the trombone – this next one being a favorite of mine – Autumn Leaves. Some beautiful playing here by Brett and I must say a very sympathetic and extremely well controlled accompaniment by the band. If there is one small criticism from this writer it is that I would have liked to see it flow along a little more in tempo.

The Southern Cross was a solo written by Herbert Clarke for the cornet. The playing by Brett is impeccable but there is a question mark whether this one and another on this CD really does suit the trombone.

Brett sounds so comfortable and has just the right style in Freeh's arrangement of the Sinatra classic All the Way, and then shows his versatility and flair in Percy Code's only trombone composition, The Emperor.

Kew have been a little unfortunate with contest hymns in Australia lately and you have to ask the question…how/why? The Hymn for Diana is live playing of the band at the 2006 NZ Nationals and the playing is of the highest standard – soft and provoking when required and the big broads sounds when asked for ably assisted again by the bottom end. Mention must go to the solo cornet and soprano. Great stuff, which rightly saw them in the prizes come the end of the day.

Sarah is the next track and, what a little gem she is……., and the piece is a real ‘goodun' as well!  Written by Bill Broughton and dedicated to Brett's wife Sarah, the soloist shows his warmth and tenderness throughout.

Other inclusions on this disc include a dedication to Don Lusher in his own Suite for Trombone, The Nightingale and the beautiful NZ melody Pokarekare Ana.
The final track is a new work by Mike Fitzpatrick, who I am sure we will here more of, entitled Trombone Rhapsody which finishes off this very enjoyable CD.

The balance between the soloist Brett Baker and band is always good – well done Engineers and Producers.  I would strongly recommend this CD for any musician and especially up and coming trombone players. Sometimes we brass bandies are guilty of not listening enough to world class soloists – here is your chance to hear music from one of the best. 

Howard Taylor

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