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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JOHN WARREN

Following On

Fuzzy Moon FUZ 004

 

 


1. Dreamlines
2. Oh, What?
3. A Warm Front
4. I Couldn't Wait
5. Fingerprints
6. Eronel
7. Above the Fourteenth Range
8. Cada Dia
9. Slipstone

Martin Shaw - Trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks 1, 2, 4-9)
Gerard Presencer - Flugelhorn (track 3)
Mark Nightingale - Trombone
Christian Brewer - Alto sax
Stan Sulzmann - Flute, tenor sax
Julian Siegel - Tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet
Jim Hart - Vibes
Gwilym Simcock - Piano
Phil Donkin - Bass
James Maddren - Drums

 

John Warren is a Canadian composer who came to Britain in the 1960s and has lived in York since 1990. He has been more involved in composing, arranging and teaching than in playing. Indeed, I'm not sure what instrument he ever played. However, that seems insignificant, given that his arranging skills are most in evidence on this album and account for much of its success.

Like John's previous album, Finally Beginning, this CD consists entirely of his own compositions except for one piece by Thelonious Monk. Warren has assembled nine of Britain's foremost jazzmen and he arranges for them as if they were a big band. Yet he avoids the usual big-band voicings and instead creates remarkably rich and varied sounds from the 13 instruments at his disposal.

The opener, Dreamlines, is typical in conjuring up a varied range of instrumental textures, set against a tango rhythm. This track also illustrates the other major strength of this ensemble: the soloing powers of its members. There are fine solos from trumpeter Martin Shaw and altoist Christian Brewer, backed by ensemble passages which are inventive without being intrusive. And Gwilym Simcock contributes a thoughtful out-of-tempo piano solo with punctuations from drummer James Maddren.

Oh, What? was inspired by Sonny Rollins breaking off in the middle of a solo and saying "Oh, what?" Its chords hint at an adaptation of Cherokee, and it starts with a disconcertingly jagged rhythm, reminiscent of Thelonious Monk, whose Eronel sounds fresh in an arrangement where the melody is stated by vibes and trumpet, followed by a feature for the drummer and an outspoken solo from Stan Sulzmann.

Gerard Presencer's warm flugelhorn embraces A Warm Front, which actually sounds rather mournful. I Couldn't Wait has a superb solo from Mark Nightingale - surely now Britain's top trombonist.

The group is reduced to a quartet for Fingerprints (featuring Julian Siegel, plus some glittering piano from Gwilym Simcock) and Slipstone (spotlighting Mark Nightingale and Jim Hart). Above the Fourteenth Range has sweet flute from Stan Sulzmann. Cada Dia is a gentle samba which John Warren wrote for Andy Sheppard to play with the Voice of the North Jazz Orchestra, one of the groups which has been fostered by Warren since he moved to York.

Some small-group sessions sound as if they have been thrown together without much thought, but this album succeeds through John Warren's attentive arrangements and the high quality of his musicians' solos.

Tony Augarde



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