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Alan Morrison: The Man with the Golden Cornet
Sal SOLO (arr. Bill Charleson)

San Damiano [5:14]

Remember Me [3:09]
Lionel RICHIE (arr. Alan Morrison)

Hello [4:15]
Vernon DUKE (arr. Mark Freeh)

April in Paris [4:30]
Trad. (arr. Leigh Baker)

Wild Mountain Thyme [5:50]

Domen [4:06]
Trad. (arr. Alan Morrison)

Ave Maria [4:59]

Kim [6:11]
Harold ARLEN (arr. Alan Morrison)

Over the Rainbow [6:16]
Alan Morrison (cornet and flügel horn)
Rhodri Davies (harp)
Brighouse and Rastrick Band/David Hirst
rec. Brighouse Central Methodist Church, 27-29 April 2004. DDD
HOT RECORDS HOT1100 [44:39]
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Alan Morrison is no stranger to solo discs having produced over half a dozen or so during his illustrious career. It is a career that now extends to around twenty-five years in top-level brass banding. It began with his appointment in the early 1980s as principal cornet of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, the band with which he made his name. This however is his first solo disc since becoming principal cornet with Brighouse and Rastrick in 2003. It is also the first he has recorded for Sussex based Hot Records who promise a series of discs featuring "different styles of modern music for brass".

Part of the object of this exercise, as far as the record company was concerned, was to extend the boundaries beyond those of a conventional brass band audience. Indeed, the hope was to see the disc enter the fringes of the pop charts and to this end a concerted promotional campaign has already resulted in a fair amount of prime air-time on Radio Two as well as numerous provincial radio stations. No doubt it was not lost on the record company that as well as the solo star there is also the added commercial bonus of a band that remains a household name thanks to Terry Wogan and his almost single-handed promotion of The Floral Dance back in the 1970s.

Unsurprisingly given the aspirations for the disc the choice of music reflects a noticeable leaning to a potential wider market-place although it is pleasing that room was found for Allan Street’s Kim, something of a brass band classic in its day although not too often heard these days. It’s clearly a piece that has a special place in Morrison’s own affections. It is dispatched in a relaxed style that perfectly suits the mood of the music. The programme also tends to the lyrical; nothing fast and furious, but quite frankly when it’s played with the sublime tone and artistry on display from Morrison it hardly matters.

The opening piece, San Damiano, is one of a couple of curiosities, in this case the curiosity factor being down to the composer, one Sal Solo, formerly lead singer of the early 1980s new wave pop band Classix Nouveaux. Inspired by an Italian pilgrimage to the San Damiano of the title, the gentle melody is worlds apart from what you would expect of the man who wrote it. Either way, Alan Morrison’s dulcet tones are immediately on display and set the stage for much of what follows, namely a text book demonstration of lyrical cornet playing of a standard that can be all too lacking in brass band solo playing these days.

Brighouse’s long serving solo baritone player Leigh Baker has built a notable reputation for his arrangements in recent years. He is responsible for two of the nine pieces on the disc the first of which, Remember Me, is an original. Taking its title from the Christina Rossetti poem of the same name, the melody is one of those pleasing ones that whilst innocuous on the surface really does linger in the mind. The cantabile melodic line proves an excellent vehicle for Morrison who produces a beautifully effortless style, often in the higher register of the instrument. Wild Mountain Thyme on the other hand is a traditional Scottish melody attributed to Francis McPeake, beautifully arranged by Baker and featuring fine playing not only from Morrison himself but also from the band.

Mark Freeh’s arrangement of the Vernon Duke classic April in Paris sees Morrison transfer to the flügel horn in an admirably relaxed, suitably bluesy style. The other piece featuring the flügel horn, J M Forde’s Domen, hails from Norway and is inspired by the cathedral of the same name at Trondheim. The opening atmospheric bars played by the soloist unaccompanied, reverberate to imitate the acoustics of the cathedral before the mood becomes more upbeat with a prominent part for kit in the closest the music on the disc gets to something more up-tempo.

Alan Morrison himself provides three arrangements, amongst them the familiar Ave Maria in a setting with harp accompaniment that lends the music an indelibly pure aura. Lionel Richie’s huge hit Hello could sound stilted were it not for the quality of Morrison’s arrangement and playing of a delicacy that really is something to admire. For the pinnacle however it is Morrison’s arrangement of Over the Rainbow that shows him at possibly his very finest. Eva Cassidy’s deeply moving version of the song won many hearts, with an added gentle twist of irony in that once again it was Terry Wogan who was largely responsible for bringing it to public attention. Morrison is at his very best here in playing of exquisite musicality, sensitivity and control. Put in the simplest terms, it is a joy to listen to.

Under the direction of David Hirst the Brighouse provide restrained, at times almost understated, accompaniment that is just right for the nature of the music and allows the soloist to shine through in every way.

The disc is attractively packaged in a cardboard gatefold case, albeit predictably leaning to a James Bond theme with a cornet playing figure silhouetted against the "gold" of the instrument bell. Our programme notes came in the form of a separate leaflet leaving us uncertain as to whether the disc comes with any notes at all when purchased from a retail outlet. That said the notes that we received were brief yet informative and would provide a useful introduction to the man and his music for those who are unfamiliar.

All in all this is easy listening at its finest; a collection of broadly appealing melodies played with consummate artistry by one the finest practitioners of the cornet around.

Christopher Thomas



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