Following the success of their first release, ‘Under the Spell of Spain’, the Superbrass ensemble have funded their second recording by innovatively securing pledges of financial help through the social media funding stream, Kickstarter.
With such a star studded line up of personnel, supporters should be guaranteed a successful return on their investment, especially as the end product is one of such startling virtuosity.
The lads may have to advertise on the Stock Exchange by the time their next musical project comes around.
As with their previous release, there is a common link with the featured repertoire - on this occasion all that is H2O in its many forms.
Water, water everywhere then – from the introductory ‘Icebreaker’ to the closing harrowing depiction of ‘The Raft of Medusa’, with all things aquatic in between.
Possibly the most oblique (and witty) connection is the opener, which refers both to the breaking down of icy barriers at sea as well as at difficult social soirees, whilst the following ‘Firewater’ is just that and more - a combustible miasma of technique.
‘Inchcolm’ and ‘Highforce’ portray a Scottish island of historical importance and a spectacular waterfall in County Durham respectively, with a cultured French horn prominent in the former, and the latter full of shifting rhythmic patterns.
Meanwhile, the inherent power of water flowing at speed is revealed in ‘Flood Warning’; a reminder that only a few inches of water are capable of wreaking havoc - evoked splendidly by a viscous trombone solo and screaming trumpet.
In lighter vein are the laid-back jazz inflections of ‘Enormous Pink Jellyfish’ and ‘Underground Plumbing Blues’, with the fruity bass trombone and tuba pedal at the end sending a ricochet of joy down the spine, whilst ‘The Healing Stream’ alludes to biblical references of water being used in the cleansing process, with the driving rhythms and superb flexibility of Kevin Morgan on tuba a real feature.
The spiritual ‘Wade in the Water’ has its origins in the attempts of slaves to escape their life of subjugation, and puts trombonist Andy Wood through his paces, and ‘Deep River’ also shines a spotlight on the lower brass with particularly fine playing from Roger Argente and Kevin Morgan respectively.
‘The Raft of Medusa’ brings a superb recording to a close by evoking images of desperation, dehydration, starvation and even cannibalism in its musical portrait of the infamous aftermath of the grounding of the French frigate Meduse in 1816.
Listen to it with an image of the famous painting by Gericault close at hand as the story unfolds through the vivid and abrasive writing, and it elicits a chilling frisson of horror in the conscious mind.
With witty artwork and insightful, precise sleeve notes, you do regret the absence of composer and arranger details. Equally, although a few of the soloists are mentioned, it would be good to know who featured on what instruments on each track.
Nevertheless, this should not put anyone off from exploring such a superb example of brass ensemble playing at its very best.
1. Icebreaker, Tom Harrold, 4.19
2. Firewater, Jim Rattigan, 5.40
3. Inchcolm, Terry Johns, 5.50
4. Enormous Pink Jellyfish, Mark Bassey, 5.25
5. Highforce, Mark Lockheart, 7.26
6. Wade in the Water, Traditional, arr. Mark Bassey, 5.18
7. Underground Plumbing Blues, Andy Baker, 3.51
8. The Healing Stream, David Powell, 7.49
9. Flood Warning, Mark Nightingale, 5.16
10. Deep River, Traditional, arr. Mark Bassey, 5.34
11. The Raft of Medusa, Gareth Wood, 6.40