If the name of Intrada Brass is new to you, there are a couple of prominent clues, both in their name and of the title of this debut CD that reveals a little more about their musical provenance.
Originally formed as a quartet in the 1970’s by a group of musicians with roots in the Lancashire brass band scene, they initially specialised in works from the renaissance period, such as Gabrieli’s majestic ‘Canzon Septimi Toni’ and Melchior Franck’s ‘Intrada’, which are gloriously revisited on this welcome recording.
A more significant clue comes with the title track itself, with its play on words hinting at the ensuing diversification of the group’s repertoire as stylistic boundaries have been gradually expanded to include jazz, pop, original works for ten piece brass ensemble and arrangements of staple classics.
High class mix
These days Intrada Brass, although flexible in its personnel, comprises a high class mix of established and freelance professionals along with active amateurs and teachers.
In addition to the core members of the group, there are often appearances by guest players and soloists, with John Doyle being a familiar name to brass band followers who is listed as having appeared with them in the recent past.
The choice of music on this debut release is certainly eclectic - but all the more entertaining for it, with the majestic sounds of Rimsky-Korsakov’s familiar ‘Procession of the Nobles’ giving an immediate indication of the breadth and quality of sound of which the group is capable.
Former CBSO bass trombonist Alwyn Green’s engaging treatment of several well known folk tunes in his ‘North of England Suite’ is given a lively airing, notably in the final section in which ‘The Keel Row’ is the focus of attention.
In contrast, the mellow tones of ‘Swing Low’ forms an effective contrast with the rather bluntly named ‘Gershwin Selection’ and ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ - the latter two works despatched with suitably ebullient spirit and stylistic perception.
When played by a scaled down ensemble, the lush harmonies of William Himes treatment of ‘Amazing Grace’ take a little getting used to, but the ensemble shows an acute appreciation of the dynamic contrasts and shifting moods of the music.
The ensemble numbers are bolstered by an enjoyable cross section of solo contributions, with Matt Crossley a free flowing french horn soloist in ‘Stardust’ and trumpeter Jim Bulger and his plunger taking the limelight in ‘Battle of Jericho’.
The familiar tones of Martin Bunce's ‘Marianne’ prove an effective vehicle for Cliff Ray, who returns to the fold to demonstrate his suave style on flugel.
Trombonist John Stevens gives a stylish account of John Iveson’s iconic arrangement of ‘Londonderry Air’, with the flugel being to the fore once again in ‘Send in the Clowns’ - this time in the hands of Intrada regular, Alex Thomas.
It falls to guest trumpet soloist Malcolm Melling to steal the show though with his Bobby Shew tribute on the Barbara Streisand’s classic ‘Evergreen’.
Rising from a mellifluous opening on flugel to stratospheric screaming trumpet heights in the final bars, it’s a fitting homage to the great man himself.
Don't be deceived
The somewhat homespun appearance of the artwork and presentation might at first give the impression of an amateurish release, but don’t be deceived.
With useful and at times amusing notes, combined with a wide range of repertoire and playing of considerable class, this debut CD offers much to enjoy, as well as providing a welcome excursion for die hard brass band enthusiasts into the all too often neglected world of the brass ensemble.
1.Procession of the Nobles, Rimsky-Korsakof, arr, Davies, 4.47
2. Allegro Deciso, Handel, arr. Cresswell, 2.05
3. North of England Suite, Traditional, arr. Green, 8.34
4. Evergreen, Streisland, arr. Ojeda, Trumpet/Flugel soloist Malcolm Melling, 4.46
5. Intrada, Franck, arr. Harvey, 2.01
6. Stardust, Carmichael, arr. Iveson, Horn soloist Matt Crossley, 4.09
7. Swing Low, Traditional, arr. Harvey, 3.11
8. Battle of Jericho, Traditional, arr. Harvey, Trumpet soloist Jim Bulger, 3.26
9. Marianne, Martin Bunce, Flugel soloist Cliff Ray, 3.58
10. Gershwin Selection, Gershwin, arr. Bissill, 6.57
11. Londonderry Air, Traditional, arr. Iveson, Trombone soloist John Stevens, 3.38
12. Amazing Grace, Traditional, arr. Himes, 3.25
13. Canzon Septimi Toni, Gabrieli, arr. King, 3.11
14. Send in the Clowns, Sondheim, arr. Harvey, Flugel soloist Alex Thomas, 3.23
15. It Don't Mean a Thing, Ellington, arr. Lewis, Trumpet soloist Cliff Ray, 2.53