Conductor: Michael Fowles
Doyen Recordings: DOYCD276
Total Playing Time: Approx 70 mins
When Andy Scott wrote ‘A World Within’ for Foden’s just a couple of years ago, it heralded the beginning of a close musical relationship, that introduced a composer who brought with him a fresh, invigorating and unashamedly eclectic creative voice.
The Tuba Concerto ‘Salt of the Earth’ had been the initial catalyst when premiered with resounding success at the Festival of Brass in 2008, and it was Scott’s subsequent appointment as Composer in Residence (a piece of enlightened thinking if ever there was one) that was to spark the two major pieces on this disc, as well as several smaller scale works such as ‘Space Invaders’, the retro-funk number that provided in part the inspiration for the band’s winning 2009 Brass in Concert programme.
In collaboration with fellow saxophonist and close friend Jim Fieldhouse, there are also a number of arrangements of earlier pieces, most of which were originally conceived for various combinations of saxophone but all of which serve to amply demonstrate the stylistically diverse spectrum that has rapidly established itself as Scott’s trademark.
That spectrum ranges from the classical (most notably in the filmic 'Battle of Barossa') to hardcore jazz, taking in Latin and Salsa, funk, rock and big band jazz along the way. It’s an exciting, vibrant mix that Foden’s, under the astute direction of Mike Fowles, respond to here in stunning fashion.
Dedicated to Foden’s President Peter Fletcher, ‘A World Within’ alternates moods of nostalgia and retrospection with African influences and rock and features demanding jazz solos for flugel and trombone in a compelling, transparently structured work that along with ‘Salt of the Earth’, remains the composer’s most impressive major piece for brass band to date.
The virtuosity of the writing sometimes stems from the nature of its stylistic language as much as issues of technique, but either way, makes considerable demands on both band and soloists.
Helen Williams and John Barber are beyond reproach in their brilliantly executed solo contributions with the trombonist in particular demonstrating both his affinity with Scott’s music as well as his considerable jazz talents.
In comparison, and to some degree as a result of its strongly narrative structure, ‘The Battle of Barossa’ does not succeed with the same level of conviction as ‘A World Within’.
Conceived as a tribute to the 87th Royal Irish Fusiliers whose defeat of Napoleonic forces in 1811 became embedded in Irish history, the piece was written in celebration of Foden’s annual visit to Armagh, and with authentic Irish intoned narration by Ivor Stevenson, takes the listener on a journey through the powerful events of that ultimately triumphant day.
The music is imbued with pathos and dramatic power, all of which is captured with gravitas, atmosphere and compassion by Mike Fowles and the band. For all its thematic appeal however, it remains one of those pieces that doesn’t quite succeed in uniting the sum of its parts.
Of the shorter concert works on offer, it is the solo pieces that leave the most lasting impression, in no small measure due to the quality of the soloists as well as that of the music.
Glyn Williams is eloquent in ‘My Mountain Top’, a moving fusion of music and Lemn Sissay’s words that along with ‘Space Invaders’, formed part of the winning Brass in Concert programme.
The gloriously full toned sound of Lesley Howie is featured to telling effect in the atmospheric ‘And Everything is Still’, whilst the haunting, Japanese inflected tones of ‘Fujiko’, a truly beautiful piece that deserves to find its place in the cornet solo repertoire, are subtley intoned by Mark Wilkinson, whose sensitivity of phrasing and melodic line is a joy to listen to.
Add to this the headlong salsa of ‘Paquito’, the drive and energy of ‘Roar!’ and the beauty of the slowly building lines of ‘Big Red’ (Scott is a composer with a gift for memorable melody) and the result is a winning combination.
The striking originality of Doyen’s cover presentation, coupled with an affectionate introduction by Bramwell Tovey and the informative, well written liner notes of Will Upton all contribute to what is a very classy release indeed and one of the undoubted brass CD highlights of 2010.
Foden’s, along with its featured soloists, are at the top of their form and demonstrate a commitment to Andy Scott’s music that entirely befits the composer’s status as one of the most refreshing voices to appear on the brass band scene in quite some time.
1. A World Within, Andy Scott, Helen Williams (Flugel Horn) and John Barber (Trombone), 13.04
2. Space Invaders, Andy Scott, 3.31
3. My Mountain Top, Andy Scott, Glyn Williams (Euphonium), 8.14
4. Battle of Barossa, Andy Scott, 15.36
5. Fujiko, Andy Scott, Mark Wilkinson (Cornet), 4.59
6. Paquito, Andy Scott, Foden's Band, 2.56
7. And Everything is Still, Andy Scott, Lesley Howie (Tenor Horn), 3.28
8. Roar!, Andy Scott, 2.58
9. Big Red, Andy Scott, 3.55
10. Salt of the Earth — Finale, Andy Scott, 3.25