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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Give It One – The London Horn Sound Big Band with Gwilym Simcock

CALA CACD 0117 [73:41]



Los Jaraneros [7:16]
Not Like This (arr. Bissill) [6:59]
FERGUSON/DOWNEY (arr. Bissill)
Give It One [3:40]
Fat Belly Blues [5:41]
The Trolley Song (arr. Bissill) [4:26]
Daydream (arr. Rattigan) [4:10]
Caseoso [4:35]
Three Point Turn [4:07]
Lana's Lullaby [5:31]
The Way We Were (arr. Simcock) [9:32]
God Bless The Child (arr. Simcock) [9:35]
Blues For Hughie [7:48]
The London Horn Sound Big Band with Gwilym Simcock (piano), John Parricelli (guitar), Sam Burgess (bass), Chris Baron (marimba) and Martin France (drums);
Richard Bissill, Pip Eastop, Timothy Jackson, Jim Rattigan and Gwilym Simcock (jazz horn soloists)
Geoffrey Simon (conductor)
rec. Air Studios, Hampstead, December 2007 with overdubs February 2008  


The London Horn Sound Big Band announces itself as the first ever big band of French horns. Altogether there are nineteen virtuosi of the instrument on hand in this, the latest entrant in Cala’s library of discs devoted to the ‘London Sound’ series.

The rationale is to cover some stylistic bases, to present a unique sound tapestry, to showcase solo players and the collective ensemble at its finest in versatile arrangements. The players are all very well known – in addition to those noted in the head note as the soloists you can find Anthony Halstead, Frank Lloyd, Nigel Black and a phalanx of other quality-assessed virtuosos in the field.

Added spice comes from hot-to-trot pianist, arranger and composer Gwilym Simcock whose jazz credentials here, whilst more muted obviously than with his trio, still infuse the band.

Los Jaraneros starts thing with a funky Latin workout. There are two jazz horn soloists and Simcock takes a solo. A few observations, I hope not too critical. Simcock’s piano is too backwardly placed for full effect, I’m not a great admirer of fade endings (they’re lazy; end the tune if you started it) and to be blunt for all the virtuosity and élan on display it’s hard timbrally and expressively to tell the horn soloists – not just Eastop and Bissill on this tune – one from another. That said I like Bissill’s atmospheric solo in the tune he arranged, Not Like This. The band works near its best on more extrovert and propulsive numbers which is why the title track, Give It One, is successful – quick fire drums from Martin France, a good arrangement and seriously good fun all round. Fat Belly Blues seems to inspire the collective horns to get ‘down home’, even if the simple lick is rather generic.

I also liked the way metres were varied. In The Trolley Song there’s a back beat swing and a half tempo change that break things up nicely. Ellington and Strayhorn must have had Stormy Weather on their minds when they wrote the otherwise somewhat forgettable Daydream. Rather more impressive is the intriguingly voiced Three Point Turn which poaches a little from the Jimmy Giuffre sound and layers things with a dash of Gil Evans, anointed by some cod episodes that reveal a strong sense of trio and brass playing humour. Things are perhaps taken to extremes in Simcock’s arrangement of Marvin Hamlisch’s The Way We Were. It’s a very busy arrangement and takes its teasing Erroll Garnerish allusiveness to grandiose heights. Still less was I taken by what Simcock does to Billie Holiday’s God Bless The Child. His attempts at tone poem impressionism sound inflated. Still, we end with a swinger, Blues for Hughie, which has some fugal passages and the only bass solo in the twelve tracks. Both these features are underused on this date I think. In fact the trio with horns aspect is only partially realised as a concept.

So some hits and misses here. Fine sound. There’s also an opportunity to download Tim Jackson’s Sound of Music Jazz Suite, which I recommend you do. My foot tapped.


Jonathan Woolf

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