1. Close to the Edge
2. Are You Real
3. Smokey Embrance
4. On The Wings of a Prayer
5. Still Waters
6. Life in the Fast Lane
8. Son of a Gun
9. Shifting Sands
Barbara Thompson - Soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, recorder
Jon Hiseman - Drums
Peter Lemer - Keyboards
Billy Thompson - Violin
Dave Ball - Bass guitar
The "Studio Brass" (tracks 4, 6)
Derek Watkins, Simon Gardner, Paul Spong, Stuart Brooks - Trumpets
Mark Nightingale, Gordon Campbell, Andy Wood - Trombones
Rob Buckland, Andy Scott - Saxes
Barbara Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1997 but you would never guess it from this DVD, recorded in Stuttgart in 2005 on Paraphernalia's "Never Say Goodbye" tour. Barbara consistently plays with control and passion, and she is well supported by a group of four virtuosic musicians, including her husband Jon Hiseman on drums (shielded by more cymbals than he can shake a stick at).
Barbara composed most of the tunes: Are You Real is by Benny Golson and Shifting Sands was co-written by Thompson with Peter Lemer and Jon Hiseman. The music covers a wide range of styles. The opening Close to the Edge has overtones of jazz-folk, while Are You Real is an up-tempo swinger, with Barbara playing the alto sax. Smokey Embrace sees Barbara switch to tenor sax, on which she seems more funky and adventurous. This tune is a slow burner, with violinist Billy Thompson making his instrument cry and screech.
Thompson stays on tenor for On the Wings of a Prayer, a bouncy piece where the quintet is accompanied by a horn section filmed while it was recording the backing. The split screen - often divided into four - helps the viewer to see what each musician is doing. Barbara returns to the alto sax for Still Waters, a mysterious piece with weird voicings, leading into a concerto-like solo for Peter Lemer at the piano.
Life in the Fast Lane brings in the "Studio Horns" again and Billy Thompson provides a resourceful violin solo. Breathless builds up from fragments of music, with a breathlessness which echoes the title, while Son of a Gun is measured jazz-rock. Shifting Sands has an oriental feel which suggests the desert, climaxing in a rather lengthy drum solo.
The two encores continue the variety of styles, as Barbara says that Nightwatch was based on Sri Lankan music (her soprano sax soars here), and Kafferinya has the feel of an Irish jig, doubling in tempo halfway through and accelerating still further towards the end.
Throughout the concert, Barbara Thompson displays her versatility on three different saxophones as well as what the sleeve calls a recorder but which sounds to me like a pennywhistle. Jon Hiseman edited the video for maximum impact and excellent sound balance. But the outstanding musicians are (to my ears) violinist Billy Thompson (with an adventurous style akin to Jean Luc Ponty) and keyboardist Peter Lemer, whose touch is clean and clear.