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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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NIGEL WADDINGTON

Bigger Pictures

CALA CACD77011

 

 

  1. You Got It
  2. I Fly (feat. Claire Martin)
  3. Is this a Rainbow
  4. Talking to Thomas
  5. Bigger Pictures
  6. September
  7. Jazz Chops, No Hang-Ups (feat. Jacqui Hicks)
  8. Lantern on the Stern
  9. James
  10. Like Someone in Love (feat. Claire Martin)
  11. Tristesse Lili Boulanger
  12. For Dave
Big Band arranged and conducted by Nigel Waddington
rec. 2003-09, Red Gables Studio, Greenford, London [61:06]

 

This is a seven year conspectus of the (in the main) compositions of Nigel Waddington. In addition these are all his arrangements. Over the years he has used a big band and a number of changing personnel. At its broadest, for instance, there is 21 piece string section. Some of the soloists include trumpeters Derek Watkins and Steve Waterman, atoist Sam Mayne, pianists David Frankel and John Horler, Martin Shaw on flugelhorn, Rob Hughes and Colin Crawley on tenor. Jacqui Hicks and Claire Martin sing. These names give one an index of Waddington's high-class colleagues and associates.

The pieces here range from big band to intimately scaled and points in-between. The self-confessed `funk fest' of Barry Finnerty's You Got It gets things underway, illuminated by Waterman's cascading trumpet, and with Chris Dagley's drums driving things forward with inexorable momentum. One of Waddington's strengths is as a colourist. So I Fly is a case in point. Woodwind statements of fine textured give way to Claire Martin's smoky vocal chorus, the two things very adeptly balanced. Tha ability to marry intimacy and broader sonorities recurs throughout, but no better than on Is this a Rainbow where Sam Mayne's alto is fused in a straight ahead quartet setting before being incorporated into the big band itself. Talking to Thomas is a piano solo written for Waddington's son, and the composition evokes a gentle carol interspersed with more obvious jazz stylings.

The title track features swirling strings, fine reed work and an especially apt solo from guitarist Dave Ital. With Jacqui Hicks taking the vocals we also have a groovy ode to Steely Dan (the band not the dildo, after which they took their name from its reference in William Burrough's Naked Lunch: it's knowing things like this that makes me so welcome a guest at dinner parties). There's also a tribute to Malcolm Arnold, a fellow trumpeter like Waddington. It's good that Martin Shaw dons the flugelhorn for this sensitively shaped opus. There's clever work for the trombones in James, a composition by Pat Metheny, as indeed there had been earlier in September where Chris Redgate's cor anglais, over David Frankel's piano, offers the cool certainty of seasonal change. There's a vaguely Aaron Copland-like feel to the start of For Dave which appropriately - it's in effect a memoriam for trumpeter Dave Plews - ends in `mid-air'.

One of the marks of a good arranger is that one revisits tracks and finds more and more in them; colours, textures, harmonies, patterns. That happens here. Maybe Waddington spreads his net too capriciously, stylistically speaking, and some of the string wash can veer dangerously close to The Golden Age of Light Music at times, but it's better to be ambitious than not. Versatility, and the ability to formulate sensitive arrangements, is a gift.

Jonathan Woolf



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