There cannot be too many partnerships as successfully productive as that of Foden’s and Andy Scott: Since 2008 they have complemented each other with a remarkable sense of musical osmosis.
Along the way he has helped develop numerous strands of exploration, which the band has eagerly immersed themselves in; from jazz and big-band to avant-garde and bebop.
It has rarely failed to impress or interest, with the composer continuing to bring artistic innovation to a medium too readily bedevilled by inherent conservatism. Foden’s is also the perfect vehicle for inventiveness; a band of supple nuance and malleable appreciation.
This follow-up release to the critically acclaimed ‘A World Within’, is a rewarding listening experience - aided it must be said, by soloists of immense craftsmanship and understanding.
Flexibility and style
From the sparkling ‘Ruby and All Things Purple’ to open we hear ensemble (and solo) playing of flexibility and style, with the upbeat Xhosa inspired joyfulness of ‘Madiba’ and sepia tinted memory landscape of ‘Forgotten Place’ infused with a stimulating evocativeness.
‘Film’ and ‘Big!’ are cleverly realised arrangements by Jim Fieldhouse of works Scott wrote for the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet; the former led with fragile beauty by Natsumi McDonald on baritone, whilst the latter is a big dollop of Spanish paella - bubbling away in its pan with intricate snippets of rhythmic contrast and dynamic shading.
There is also bold contrast in ‘Chrysalis Moon', played in sumptuous fashion by the trumpet/cornet quartet of Martin Winter, John Wallace, Allan Withington and Mark Wilkinson in as laid back and willing to please fashion as Joan Collins in front of a log fire wearing only a mink coat for comfort.
Meanwhile, Glyn Williams and Bramwell Tovey also relax on ‘Let there be Peace’ (they interrupted a National Youth Band course to record it): It’s a lovely example of the composer’s art of less meaning immensely more.
Two major works dominate though.
‘Spirit of Mingus’ is a lucidly developed homage to jazz musician Charles Mingus; drawing on elements of his complex musical hinterland - one that was reflected in his own multi faceted personality.
It rewards considered listening - the varying elements slowly but surely revealing themselves amid the dissonant colour palette, helped by Rex Richardson’s Marlboro fag-hued narration which imbibes the listener like the intoxicating taste of a late night bottle of Jack Daniels.
So too ‘Molecular Cocktail Party’, which was premiered at the 2013 RNCM Festival of Brass, and features the multi talented John Barber given free rein to meander inventively with his tasteful improvisations on trombone and piano.
The informality is contained within a material structure though - which allows the band and soloist to find points of contact despite the elasticity of the connecting musical tissue; from the tense bebop inspired opening ‘Riffs and Changes’, through the more introvert reflections of ‘Free and Written’ to the chaotic ‘Soul and Feel’ finale.
Andy Scott is a composer who should be cherished for what he has brought into our banding world; an influence which lifts the scales from the eyes of myopic traditionalists.
However, Foden’s should also be congratulated for having the vision to link up with him. Let’s hope there are more musical explorations to come in the future.
1. Ruby and All Things Purple, 6.30
2. Spirit of Mingus, Rex Richardson (Trumpet / Narration) and John Barber (Trombone), 14.59
3. Chrysalis Moon, Allan Withington, Martin Winter, John Wallace and Mark Wilkinson (Trumpets / Cornets), 4.54
Molecular Cocktail Party, John Barber (Trombone)
4. I. Soul and Feel, 9.36
5. II. Free and Written, 5.21
6. III. Riffs and Changes, 7.29
7. Madiba, 3.55
8. Film, Natsumi McDonald (Baritone), 4.20
9. Big!, 2.30
10. Forgotten Place, 5.40
11. Let There be Peace, Glyn Williams (Euphonium) with Bramwell Tovey (Pianoforte), 5.34