Double Trouble
Barbara THOMPSON (b.1944) Double Trouble [7:23]
Andy SCOTT Tuba Concerto, Salt of the Earth (2007) [14:44]
Going Down (2003) [9:41]
Bite the Bullet [10:32]
Barbara THOMPSON Tuba Concerto, Living in the Fast Lane (2004) [17:12]
Les Neish, James Gourlay (tubas), Tubalaté (Paul Walton, John Powell (euphoniums), Ryan Breen, Les Neish (tubas), Ben Gray (drums)), Foden’s Band/Michael Fowles
rec. details not given. DDD
EGON SFZ 152 [60:52]

This is a refreshingly different disk of music for brass band. Both Andy Scott and Barbara Thompson are saxophonists, and both have worked in the jazz and classical fields. Both write music which poses no difficulties for the listener. I imagine, that this music is a delight for the performers, being well written and not requiring them to do anything untoward with their instruments.

There are two Concertos on this disk, and very welcome additions to the repertoire they are. Andy Scott’s Salt of the Earth is a brilliant synthesis of several things within the classical vernacular. A cadenza opens the work and then there’s a rhythmic fast movement, with allusions to funk. There’s also some use of multiphonics, but only from the soloist. The slow movement is gospel based. It’s a trifle overlong, even within the short overall playing time of the piece. The finale is a riotous Latin-inspired romp. It’s a rather good piece and sufficiently well written to reward repeated hearings. Les Neish is the agile soloist.

Barbara Thompson’s Concerto, Living in the Fast Lane, was written for tuba and jazz band but it’s heard here in a version for brass band by Jim Fieldhouse. As with Scott’s work, it’s in the usual three movements but the material isn’t what you’d expect for a band composition. This work is more obviously jazz inflected than Scott’s and has a bluesy feel. The finale is a special joy, devoid of any pretence, aiming entirely for pleasure, with percussion permeating the score. It makes a fine ending. James Gourlay is the fleet-fingered soloist here.

Whilst enjoying both these works I do feel that the melodic material isn’t overly memorable. It’s the colouring of the music which will capture most listeners’ interest.

The remaining three works are, essentially, chamber pieces. Thompson’s Double Trouble is a duet for tubas - Neish and Gourlay - with a prelude and coda for band. It’s a neat little joke of a work and has a delightful sense of fun. Both of Thompson’s works have odd, rather incomplete, endings, which, musically, are somewhat unsatisfying. That’s my only complaint about them.

Scott’s Going Down is a brief piece for tuba and pre-recorded sound - deriving from the sound of the tuba itself. There are some interesting sounds here, nothing that is not musical in one way or another, but the piece is far too long for its material. Bite the Bullet was written for Tubalaté, with percussion, and here is a winner. In three movements, the first fast and extrovert and slow and introverted (half and half). The brief slow movement continues in this latter vein. The finale, however, is all fun.

Although some of the music is slightly flawed this is a CD of important additions to the brass band repertoire, not least the two Concertos. It requires an open mind in musical matters but once opened it will be rewarded. The recording is very bright and clear and the notes are good. I enjoyed it.

Bob Briggs