(Review – Brett Baker and Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass – 7 November 2010)
On November 7, Brett Baker, principal trombonist of the famous Black Dyke Band, performed alongside Christchurch based Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass for an afternoon of brass flavoured entertainment. The concert was held at the University of Canterbury in The Ngaio Marsh Theatre. By musical standards, the concert was a great success with Brett providing technically impressive and musically affecting performances, and Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass demonstrating that they are a band fit to accompany a soloist of international renown.
From his first note, it was clear we were in for a treat. Perfectly formed, the sound resonated around the theatre. Musical aptitude and trombone virtuosity followed as lip and slide skipped through the music, connecting diverse genres as easily as he connected notes. The music flowed, and it was a pleasure to listen.
Brett is not a player you need to have an advanced musical understanding to appreciate. He is accessible, with his repertoire of the dazzling, the moving and the upbeat. From the ever pleasant Abide With Me, to the drama of Atlantic Zephyrs, it would appear that accessibility was on Brett’s mind when he designed this set list. It was formulated to impress and to entertain, and crowd feedback would suggest that on this day he got the formula just right.
While the band employed the expertise of David Fiu as compere, Brett chose to self compere his portions of the concert. He proved to be an able presenter, using his dialogue to further draw the audience in to his performance. A joke to explain why the top note of a cadenza is skipped (it was a cornet solo after all) and the audience is left with the realisation that this is a performer; a musician who understands the importance of the bits in between the music, which are vital if the audience and the soloist are to truly connect.
This observation would suggest that Brett does not need any assistance when it comes to creating the appropriate atmosphere at his concerts. It must be recognised however that in this instance the intimate feel of the occasion was supported to some degree by the smaller audience size. Gathering a sizeable audience can be a challenge, especially at an afternoon concert, however it is regrettable that the dynamic programme presented by both Brett and Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass was not enjoyed by more.
A note should be made for the band who provided a stable backdrop for Brett’s solo items, and offered a number of salient pieces of their own. Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass showed they too have the ability to tackle multiple musical styles, moving from the more traditional brass band forms of the hymn and the march, to include a malaguena and the dramatic Finale from Faust. Special note must be made of the trombone feature Arriva Derci Roma composed for Brett Baker and his fellow trombonists in the Black Dyke Band. This was an enjoyable piece and a nice touch to use it to bring the soloist and band together at the end of the concert.
The final word on this concert must be to recognise that Brett Baker is an exceptional performer who does not disappoint, and that Leopard Coachlines Canterbury Brass put in a very strong performance that complimented their soloist superbly.