Trombone with Piano accompaniment by Fenella Haworth-Smith
Brett Baker has strutted his stuff for many a year now, and has been a performer who has carefully looked after his musical well being as a soloist. A gifted musician he has expanded his repertoire in varying directions ever since he made his first commercial recoding in 1996.
Recorded this time last year, this release sees him team up with the substantive talent of pianist Fenella Haworth-Smith, who provides a subtle and impressive accompaniment throughout the recording.
The works chosen are varied in scope and style, from the more intense and serious to the light and frothy. Some work better than others in this rather stark and revealing format, but it says much of the soloist that all are delivered with an accomplished sense of musicianship that is most acutely revealed in his ability to manipulate the tonal colour of the instrument, from the dark and powerful to the light and expressive.
The opening ‘Piece in Eb Minor' by Ropartz, is finely executed, as are the rather less substantial ‘Ballad for Trombone' by Eric Banks and the effervescently bubbly, ‘Shout!' by Rob Wiffin. ‘Four Sketches' by Tony Cliff is an academic exercise in composition by numbers however, whilst Eric Ball's ‘Legend' is slightly prosaic in a rather dated style of writing.
Rather more satisfying are Sparke's ‘Aubade' that transcribes well for the lyric voice of the trombone from the euphonium original, and Edward Gregson's skilful ‘Divertimento', written as far back as 1968 but still revealing a crisp freshness even today.
Andy Duncan's ‘Witches Spell' is all hubble and bubble, whilst fellow Scot, Bruce Fraser, provides the soloist with a real chance to showcase his command of differing genres with his ‘Ballade and Spanish Dance' – which he does splendidly.
The same applies to Martin Ellerby's lyrical ‘Chaconne' from his ‘Trombone Concerto' and the interesting ‘Sonatina' by Serocki which is given a commanding rendition. Heaton's sensitive ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer' and Suluk's intricate ‘Trombone Sonata' round off the release in fine style.
Overall Brett Baker delivers an enjoyable recital of substance, let down only by the poor choice of Monti's ‘Czardas' which sounds strained and out of place (the recording would really have benefited from it being scrapped) and by the fact that some of the items are first and foremost solo works with ensemble accompaniment.
That said, Fenella Haworth-Smith is a delight to hear, whilst there has been obvious care and attention paid to the balance between both performers by the sound engineer in a sympathetic acoustic, and with the final production values.