difficult to categorise this CD, unless it’s under that ever-growing
category called ‘uncategorisable’ – which I suspect would
appeal to Rob Rogers, the creative mind behind the music.
All the oboe playing on the disc is by Rob, often multi-tracked
as many as four or five times. The booklet explains that
the rhythm tracks (i.e. piano/synthesiser, bass, guitar and
drums) were laid down first, after which the wind instruments,
including Steve Lock’s bassoon and contra, were added.
Rogers has an interesting background; having been
born in London, he nevertheless spent much of his childhood
in Venezuela. The family then moved to rural Scotland where Rob grew up, going on to study at the Royal College
of Music in London. He now operates from his base in Suffolk, where I assume this music was recorded and edited together.
this is very much a studio product, and, at first hearing,
it’s quite difficult to imagine this music being reproduced
‘live’. Interestingly, however, the booklet explains firstly
that the initial inspiration came from a live performance
– a quartet of two cor anglais and two oboes d’amore in Bach’s
Christmas Oratorio – and secondly that some of the material
has been performed live, and more is planned.
we have here, anyway, is a unique sound, or rather unique
sounds, because there is quite a lot of variety, from
a track like Mr Cheesy Smiles on which all seven wind
instruments play (i.e. three oboes, two cors, bassoon and
contra) to the three short pieces that make up Onomatopoeia,
which are for just oboes and cors anglais (though with gentle
drum-kit in the last one). The idiom is mainly jazzy, and
there’s quite a bit of improvisation. This is impressive,
because the oboe is such a difficult instrument, and simply
doesn’t have the innate flexibility of clarinet, sax or even
trumpet. But Rogers is an extremely skilful player, and throws most of his solos
off in the right laid-back way – though just occasionally
the strain does show! And I was struck once again by the
close affinity between the tone of the oboe and a soprano
saxophone in certain registers - the same goes for cor anglais
and alto sax. Tell me, man is simply a play on the
name of Telemann, tracks 12 to 15 being based on the four
movements of his A minor Sonata for oboe and continuo This
is given the ‘Jacques Loussier treatment’ with enjoyable
you’ve absorbed the attractively ambivalent idioms and the
unusual sound-world, this is really a delightful CD to listen
to. There is a freshness about the music, an unpretentious
feeling of discovery, and a great sense of fun too, all of
which is highly infectious. I have my favourites – I loved
Dalyan, inspired by Turkish music, and with an elusive
hint of heterophony (a feature of much Middle Eastern music
where different instruments play almost the same melodic
line but not quite!), Lost Cause, with a beautiful
guitar solo creating a dreamy atmosphere, and the wild Reel
Motivation, combining Scottish folk-dance and jazz-funk
– Hoots Mon it’s cool!
Rogers has brought together a superb band of highly
talented players, and the excellent news is that the booklet
contains the promise of more CDs in this vein to follow.
This really is something different, unassuming, yet pulled
off with aplomb.