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|It's Not Unusual
A Slow Ride in a Static Machine [3:55]
Anblasen Fanfare [3:07]
The Wizard [5:46]
Bach Variations [4:38]
A Day in the Life of a Knight [11:21]
Dennis McCARTHY (arr.
Star Trek – Deep Space Nine Theme [3:24]
Les REED (arr. P. Lawrence)
It's Not Unusual [2:13]^
Cole PORTER (arr.
Neslson Riddle/P. Lawrence)
I've Got You Under My Skin [3:42]*
Fritz KREISLER (arr.
Allen VIZZUTTI (arr.
Igor STRAVINSKY (arr.
Gustav MAHLER (arr.
Urlicht from Symphony No.2, 'Resurrection' [5:54]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (arr.
Saltarello from Symphony No.4, 'Italian' [5:47]
Richard WAGNER (arr.
Siegfried’s Funeral Music from Gotterdammerung [8:04]
Alan DOWNY (arr. P.
Give it One [3:46]%
(flugel horn)*, Lisa Sarasini, Paul Coupe and Kevin Wilson
(trombones)^, Richard Marshall (cornet)# ,
Margaret McDonald (mezzo soprano)+, Jamie Prophet (soprano
cornet)+, Louise Thompson (harp)+, Derek Watkins (trumpet
and flugel horn)%, The Fairey Band/Frank Renton.
rec. 9-10 June 2007, Bramhall High School; 28 September 2007,
Elms Studio, London. DDD
DOYEN DOYCD237 [76:20]
The album cover of this new Doyen release
is very busy. So is a lot of the music on this disc, which
celebrates Phillip Lawrence’s work as a composer and arranger
for brass band. As anyone who knows much of Lawrence's output
would expect, it is incredibly - and at times frustratingly
majority of the tracks are arrangements and, for the most part,
they are quite successful. The classical mainstream is well
represented. There is a decent arrangement of the finale of
Mendelssohn's Italian symphony and a well scored arrangement
of material from Götterdämmerung, which is marred in
performance here by some nasty cornet fluffs above the stave
just after the four minute mark.
Kreisler's Liebeslied (misspelled
as "Leibesleid" throughout the booklet) comes off
nicely, as Lawrence shifts the theme from section to section
of the band and Renton maintains a firm waltz pulse.
have mixed feelings about the arrangement of the Urlicht movement
from Mahler's second symphony. Mahler's original scoring is
so striking in its colours that the shift to a brass band inevitably
loses something. Nevertheless, Lawrence blends brass sonorities
skillfully to create a fitting atmosphere. Margaret McDonald's
voice has warmth in its lower and middle range, but this does
not quite extend to the upper reaches of her range.
real gem of the classical arrangements is Lawrence's beautiful
rendering of Stravinsky's Pastorale, a Rimsky-esque
idyll which Stokowski arranged for orchestra but may otherwise
be unknown to most listeners.
a nod to Lawrence’s parallel career as a composer for the screen,
the album opens with an impressive arrangement of the theme
to Star Trek, Deep Space Nine that plays up its relationship
to Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. It makes a
nice curtain raiser.
are two song arrangements. A trio of trombones replaces the
irreplaceable Tom Jones in a colourful and enjoyable arrangement
of It’s not Unusual. This works quite well, though the
second trombone plays his solo behind the beat, and some of
the ensemble playing is choppy. The second song arrangement
is better, both as an arrangement and as a performance, as
Lawrence tracks closely Nelson Riddle’s arrangement for Sinatra
of Cole Porter’s classic I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
Band and flugel soloist Rod Franks swing this number well.
final two arrangements are of Zig-Zag by jazz-fusion
trumpeter Allen Vizzutti and Give It One, a number written
for Maynard Ferguson. Both arrangements have potential, but
are let down in performance. Zig-Zag is rhythmically
messy here and Richard Marshall’s playing is uncharacteristically
untidy. While Derek Watkins is on top of the notes in Give
It One, he is a touch tentative as a scream trumpeter and
the band cannot quite find the drive to maintain the hard swing
required to make this number work.
as his arrangements cross genres, Lawrence's own compositions
range from traditional brass band fare to pieces reflecting
various jazz and classical influences.
Slow Ride in a Static Machine takes its title from John
Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and as with Adams’ piece
it is built on motivic fragments. There the similarities
end. Lawrence’s piece is in essence a cheeky tone poem depicting
a traffic jam, complete with blasts of car horns, sirens
and other traffic noise woven around and scratched across
a repeated fragment of quirky tune, which sticks in your
head for hours afterwards. It is a clever piece and I confess
that I quite like it, but it is twice as long as it needs
to be and is not a piece that I would want to listen to frequently.
It is quite distant from the traditional brass band sound
world, which is perhaps why it so irritated my wife, who
loves brass bands and has been around them all her life.
She also disliked Zig-Zag for similar reasons.
Fanfare is closer in feel to mainstream brass band fare
and is a really effective piece, pitting parts of the band
against each other in a fanfare combat of sorts. This would
be a great concert opener and is well played by the Fairey
a tender piece written in memory of a friend which weaves The
Last Post around a touching melody. Rod Franks and offstage
cornet Mike Eccles play their solos with sensitivity.
Wizard is a fairly traditional sounding march. Lawrence
writes in the booklet notes that he was aiming for an Elgarian
or Waltonian slow second subject between the vigorous march
sections, but his slow and noble theme sounds more like the
theme to Star Trek – The Next Generation. There is
some attractive traditional brass band writing in A Day
in the Life of a Knight too, with martial music and a
glowing love theme. The piece has repeated brass figurations
that remind me of Gregson's classic test piece, The Plantagenets,
though Gregson’s piece is more tightly constructed.
Variations is a teaser. This is only the first of three
movements of a new test piece written by Lawrence. It is
attractively scored and focused on pure sonorities. It sounds
wonderful and my only complaint in respect of this piece
is that the other two movements were not included on this
you get past the busy cover art, which is in tune with Lawrence's
busy music, the glossy booklet looks very nice. That is, until
you start reading it. The very first page is crowned by an
imposing heading: "Frenk Renton speaks...". Frenk Renton?
Did anyone proof-read this? Apparently not. That first misspelling
is a harbinger of worse to come. The booklet's text, which
is quite detailed and otherwise both interesting and helpful,
is riddled with grammatical, factual and typographical errors,
and changes voice from third to first person and back again
without warning or reason. Who approved this?
complaints about presentation aside, there is a lot to admire
on this album, both in the playing of the Fairey Band and in
Lawrence's music. That said, there is also a lot on this album.
An hour and a quarter of Lawrence’s restless music can be too
much of a good thing. This disc would be better if it contained
less music that had been more thoroughly rehearsed before the
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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