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Mike Lovatt's Brass Pack

Carmen Suite (Bizet arr. Colin Skinner)
Online performance


Great performers are always backed by fantastic arrangers and session bands.  

And whilst their names are invariably unknown to audiences packed into concert halls or Las Vegas lounges, their efforts do not go unappreciated – especially by the stars themselves. 

Frank Sinatra used to nod his complimentary admiration to Nelson Riddle and his orchestra during his shows, whilst countless others acknowledged their debt of gratitude when they needed a Hefti or a Nestico, Thad Jones or a Bobby Shew so they could strut their talents in the spotlight without seemingly a care in the world.

Riddle learnt his craft exposed to Tommy Dorsey’s arrangers such as Eddie Sauter and Freddie Norman, so by the time he eventually teamed up with Sinatra, he knew exactly what ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ needed to revive his flagging career.

Self confidence

Interestingly, when they first met, they performed some Billy May arrangements as well as Riddle’s own, packed full of trademark brassy self-confidence and swagger.   

After listening to the tapes, Sinatra simply said: “I’m back, baby, I’m back!”  They went onto to make 318 recordings together; the symbiotic relationship producing the musical gold standard others have since strived to emulate.

Bette Midler and Mae West

Which brings us in a circuitous way to Mike Lovatt’s ‘Brass Pack’ – and Colin Skinner’s wickedly sublime highlights suite from Bizet’s famous opera.

The result is a brilliant hutzpah performance – played with suave freedom by the ‘Brass Pack’ players underpinned by the sinuously smooth kit work of Matt Skelton.   

This is a 24 carat Billy May homage in itself; a red-meat soundscape (using French horns instead of saxophones) of bravura sensuality that makes Carmen sound like a cross between Bette Midler and Mae West. On this form her cigars could be smoked as aphrodisiac Viagra. 

Although originally performed by the Royal College of Music Brass Ensemble, Mike Lovatt spent a chunk of lockdown persuading friends to record their parts on-line before bringing it together with the assistance of Jordan Farrugia and Peter North at the London College of Music.

Hutzpah performance

The result is a brilliant hutzpah performance – played with suave freedom by the ‘Brass Pack’ players underpinned by the sinuously smooth kit work of Matt Skelton.   

And by heck does it swagger, flirt and fancy itself; the orchestration richly harmonised and textured, packed with colour and drama, fiery passion, loin and groin sexual tension and a great pinch of sly wit (I’m sure there is a secret xylo led nod to a fictional ‘Carry On Carmen’ score at one point in  ‘Danse Boheme’

Mike Lovatt deservedly takes the star spotlight bouquet at the end, but he ensures that it’s Billy May, Colin Skinner and the Brass Pack team as a whole that deserve the plaudits.   

All that is needed now is for someone to get it on the road so we can all enjoy it live and deliciously dangerous first hand.

Iwan Fox 

To enjoy: https://www.mikelovatt.co.uk/brass-pack


Mike Lovatt’s Brass Pack:

Trumpets: Mike Lovatt; Simon Gardner; Tom Walsh; James Davison; Stuart McLean-Fowler; Derek Lawton 

Trombones: Gordon Campbell; Andy Wood; Tom Dunnett; Peter North

Tuba: David Kendal 

French Horns: Christopher Parkes; Richard Bissill; Anna Ferriol; Sarah Willis

Harp: Geraldine Docherty 

Piano: Graham Harvey 

Bass: Laurence Ungless

Guitar: Adam Goldsmith

Drums: Matt Skelton

Percussion and Timpani: Jeremy Cornes 

Mixed at The London College of Music University of West London by: Jordan Farrugia;
Peter North; Mike Lovatt

Video Design & Production: Tom Dunnett; Derek Lawton

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BSc, PG Cert. Ed.
Cartoonist , illustrator, writer


               

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