This release is a vehicle for Black Dyke Band’s solo trombonist, Brett Baker, although his colleagues Paul Woodward, Garry Read and Adrian Hirst join him on the first track, Darrol Barry’s Introit for Trombones. Originally written for Brett Baker during his time with Williams Fairey Band, this work is a brief flourish, built around the interval of the fourth, which makes an effective, if very brief, opening item. Three movements from Robert Elkjer’s Carmen Fantasy (music from Bizet’s opera originally arranged for the New York Philharmonic’s Joseph Alessi) come next – the spirited Entr’acte to Act IV of the opera (incorrectly given as Prelude to Act 1 on the CD case), a movement called Fantasy Intermezzo (actually the gentle entr’acte to Act III), and the Sequidilla from Act 1, all of which Brett Baker plays stylishly. Leonard Bernstein’s Elegy for Mippy II (his brother’s deceased pet dog) is given an idiomatic rendering (complete with foot-taps as specified by the composer), while Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine (an original solo piece for the trombone) gives an outing to an attractive, but rarely-heard work. There is an air of passionate declamation combined with a half-lit world of mystery in this short work and one wonders why it isn’t better known. Keith Wilkinson’s arrangement of Schubert’s Serenade (Ständchen) calls to mind the glorious baritone voice of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, although Brett Baker is no mean substitute here with a sensitive, eloquent reading.
Brett’s colleagues join him again for Philip Sparke’s trombone quartet, Toyko Tryptich, which consists of three attractive miniatures, Shinjuku, Sengakuji and Shibuya, commissioned by the Zipang Trombone Quartet of Japan, describing three locations: a busy modern city landscape, a small temple in the country and Tokyo’s newest shopping district, famous for its night life. The playing is as richly varied and colourful as the music. Frescobaldi’s Baroque Toccata and Howard Evans lovely arrangement of the Iona Boat Song are effectively paired, while Darrol Barry’s substantial three-movement Phantasy for Trombone gives Brett Baker an opportunity to demonstrate his range of expression. Rob Wiffin’s Blue Jeans (written for Chris Jeans) is a gentle piece in blues style, while Goff Richards’ Saviour of my Heart which follows is an adaptation of a work written for New Zealand euphonium soloist, Rikki McDonnell, and consists of a soaring melody over an arpeggiated accompaniment. Two more lighter works, Tony Cliff’s three-movement Jazz Silhouettes and Donna Peterson’s moving Salvationist piece, Nothing but Thy Blood, form a contrast to the final item, Edward Gregson’s Trombone Concerto, originally written for Michael Hext. Even in its piano version, this work impresses with its seriousness of intent and the quality of the writing. Brett Baker gives a fine account to finish an outstanding collection of first-rate pieces, superbly played by one of the finest exponents of the trombone in the brass band world today. Fans of Brett Baker will need no persuading to acquire this release, fans of the trombone in general are encouraged to do likewise and the inquisitive need feel no qualms about adding this album, with its interesting, varied programme, to their collection.
British Bandsman, Saturday 29th May 2010