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Bob CHILCOTT (b. 1955)
All Good Things
Ophelia, Caliban and Miranda [12:50]
Marriage to My Lady Poverty [4:44]
Scarborough Fair [2:04]
The Real of Heart [3:55]
Jazz Songs of Innocence [17:29]
Thou, my love, art fair [4:12]
The House of the Rising Sun [4:27]
Weather Report [4:47]
Nidaros Jazz Mass [17:12]
Sue Greenway (saxophone), Raphael Mizraki (double bass), Alexander Hawkins (piano), Jon Scott (drums) Bob Chilcott (piano)
Commotio/Matthew Berry, Bob Chilcott
rec. 2016, Church of St.John the Evangelist, Oxford
NAXOS 8.573383 [71:40]

Here is a second CD of Chilcott’s music for Naxos. Like the previous one, the works are sung by the young Oxford-based choir Commotio, a superbly talented group presided over by their joint founder, Matthew Berry. Chilcott himself was present at these recordings in three capacities – pianist on one track, conductor on some others, and co-producer.

Chilcott has a growing world-wide reputation as a composer of beautifully conceived choral music. He is sometimes seen as the ‘heir’ to John Rutter; I’m quite sure Bob himself would be flattered by that, but it’s a very limited comparison. One of the reasons is illustrated by many of the items on this very disc. Unlike Rutter, Chilcott has a really instinctive and authentic feel for jazz idioms. He himself traces his love of combining choral voices with jazz instrumentalists back to the experience in his King’s Singers days of singing some Gershwin arrangements made by Richard Rodney Bennett. That influence is seen in the way Chilcott often gives his choirs relatively simple sections, around which the jazz players weave improvisatory solos – an approach that works wonderfully well, especially with the outstanding musicians Chilcott has lined up, with the saxophone of Sue Greenway in ‘Ophelia, Caliban and Miranda’, and the piano of Alexander Hawkins on many tracks particularly notable.

Not to say that all Chilcott’s choral writing is ‘simple’! In ‘Weather Report’, he builds up magical textures with rapid repetition of words and phrases, pianissimo, with layers of vocal tone and some solos. I’ve admired this great number since Chilcott’s original recording back in 2008, and Commotio do it superbly here, with a spectacular final chord involving B and D way up above the treble stave.

Chilcott has already produced one highly successful Jazz setting of the mass (‘A Little Jazz Mass’ of 2004), and has followed that up recently with another setting commissioned by the girls’ choir of Nidaros Cathedral in Norway. He then made a 4-part version for a Japanese choir, and that is what’s recorded here. And a very attractive piece it is too, that will soon, I’m sure, find its way into the repertoire of many British choirs. It swings along gently in the opening Kyrie, then moves into a lively dancing Gloria. Though the rhythms are jazzy, they aren’t outrageously difficult for the choir (unlike those of, for example, the delightful ‘Miranda’ on track 3 – tricky!). There are also some meltingly lovely tunes, especially the final Agnus Dei (though I’m not convinced about the Bb in the piano against the B natural in the choir around 4:53 on this track – a re-take that got away?!). This lovely setting is further enhanced by the beautiful playing of Alexander Hawkins and his colleagues on bass and drums, Raphael Mizraki and Jon Scott.

Beautiful music, beautifully performed and recorded – what more could you want?

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Previous review: John Quinn



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