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CD: World of Brass


Life Abundant
Kenneth DOWNIE
Trumpet Call [5.27]
Healing Waters [5.00]
Someone Cares (arr. Ray Steadman-Allen) [3.51]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Trumpet Concerto in D (arr. RP Block) [7.23]*
Before The Cross [3.41]
Wondrous Day [6.28]
Don't Doubt Him Now (arr. Craig Woodland) [3.27]
Life Abundant [10.55]
Time and Eternity [6.09]^
Virtuosity (arr. Jack Peberdy) [4.21]
Prelude to Te Deum (arr. P White)[1.27]*
Philip Cobb (cornet and trumpet), Benjamin Horden (organ)*, Robert Childs (euphonium)^, Cory Band/Dr Stephen Cobb.
rec. 15-16 June 2007, Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun, Aberdare; 16 July 2007, St. Mary's and All Saints, Fotheringhay. DDD
EGON SFZ140 [59:33]
Experience Classicsonline

The 19 year old Philip Cobb has an impressive pedigree in brass.  His father is Dr Stephen Cobb, who conducts the Cory Band on this recording and is better known as the Bandmaster of the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army (the ISB).  Like his father and grandfather before him, Philip plays cornet in the ISB.  The booklet notes reveal that he is not just an Army musician, though – he is making music his career.  He was principal cornet of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and is currently studying trumpet at London's Guildhall School with the LPO’s Paul Beniston and Alison Balsom.
Much is naturally expected from Philip Cobb's debut solo album.  Thankfully, much is delivered.
Most of the tracks on this disc are Salvation Army occasional works which evoke moods related to the hymn tunes on which they are based.  These pieces suit Cobb's sweet, smooth tone and soft-tongued attack and phrasing – or perhaps his own sound has grown to suit this style of music over the years.  Either way, they showcase his artistry to best advantage.  The pieces by Edward Gregson and Kenneth Downie in particular are wonderful.  Each of these tracks features not only beautiful melodic writing for the soloist, sensitively delivered, but also a warm and cleverly layered brass band sonority underpinning the solo line.  Craig Woodland's arrangement of Ballentine's Don't Doubt Him Now is similarly deft and quite lovely.
The Bandmaster of the Cory Band, having relinquished the podium to the soloist's father, takes up his euphonium to join Cobb in duet in Ivor Bosanko's Time and Eternity.  This piece is glorious, with a warm sonority suffusing the band as euphonium and cornet exchange phrases and comment on one another.  Cobb manages to match the warmth of tone and effortless technique of his partner here.  That statement in itself is high praise indeed.
Erik Leidzen's Wondrous Day is an old-fashioned Army showpiece, opening with a swaggering march and shifting into an outdoorsy, fairground trio as Leidzen varies his gospel song theme.  The booklet notes reveal that this piece is something of a family heirloom, having been written for and famously recorded by Philip's grandfather, Roland Cobb, and frequently played by his father Stephen.  Philip Cobb plays it with warm affection, nimbly negotiating its technical challenges.
As good as Wondrous Day and the other Army pieces are, Robert Redhead's Life Abundant is unquestionably the highlight of the disc, as well as being its title track.  More a tone poem for soloist and band than a traditional solo, the piece begins with patterns on a single repeated note from the soloist, before Redhead begins to build an accompaniment.  The piece shifts mood continuously, from mystery to light swing, from bluesy writing to triumphant statement.  The impossibly high final note wavers slightly in pitch and there is a barely audible recording glitch just before the 8 minute mark, but on the whole this is a very impressive performance, with Cobb's understated artistry always at the service of the melody and treating the huge technical challenges accordingly.
Among all of these Army numbers there is a single secular showpiece, for which Cobb swaps his cornet for a trumpet.  Virtuosity is a carnival romp that aims to, and succeeds in, dazzling with flashy technique.  It may not be long, but it crams a lot of notes into a short space of time and tests the soloist with every technical trick in the book.  This is Cobb's current party piece, and one of two solos he played at the Salvation Army's 2007 Gospel Arts Concert in the Royal Albert Hall.  Cobb flies through the piece with confidence, slowing down to savour the jazzy interlude before pushing through to the final flourish.
Virtuosity and the various Army numbers are very successful and hugely enjoyable.  I am less convinced, though, by Cobb's forays into mainstream “classical” repertoire.  Cobb's playing in the Telemann trumpet concerto has a limpid beauty, but his tone is unvaried over the four movements, making an otherwise creditable performance sound dull.  The same bland, if slightly brighter, beauty of tone is to be found in the Charpentier item that closes the disc, though contrast is less important in the shorter work.  These pieces, though not particularly difficult to play, are in a sense harder to bring off than the other works on the album and require greater subtlety.  This Cobb will acquire with time.  For now, minor reservations notwithstanding, he has given us a very fine debut album featuring playing of the highest standard.
Tim Perry


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