2. Oh, What?
3. A Warm Front
4. I Couldn't Wait
7. Above the Fourteenth Range
8. Cada Dia
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
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.