The second album from these youthful Birmingham-based musicians finds Yorkshire-born pianist and composer Jacky Naylor switching the piano stool for the conductor’s stand to direct the band through his sound portraits of five cities.
Moscow is full of chilly grandeur with danger lurking just beneath the surface; Bilbao has a flamenco feel and highlights the contrast between cobbled old and chromium new; Stockholm sparkles and shifts with confident reflections off the water; Reykjavik is primeval and stormy; and Marrakech is bustling with hagglers and general market chaos.
This band – its personnel changes and it is 18-strong here – was founded in 2014 to showcase the compositions and playing of the young musicians playing such a strong part in the burgeoning jazz scene in this city. The band’s first album, Burns (reviewed HERE), featured the writing of Sean Gibbs, and if that disc gave us a character-defining idea of the orchestra’s particular sound, then this one confirms and consolidates that impression. These musicians have both a cohesive communal personality as well as their own strong individual characters.
Naylor uses their full evocative powers in his musical impressions of these city visits and it works really well. He also keeps the music tight, avoiding any indulgent tendencies to try to capture atmospherics at the expense of the drive and concision of the music. Like Gibbs he manages to be “orchestral” as well as “big band-y” in his writing, and it’s the ability to be comfortable with both that makes this band so strong.
Special mention is deserved not only by the soloists – Lee Griffiths on alto, John Fleming on tenor, Richard Foote on trombone, Ben Lee on guitar, Hugh Pascall and Tom Syson on trumpets, David Ferris on piano, Josh Schofield on soprano and Jonathan Silk on drums – but to the low instruments – Alicia Gardener-Trejo on bari and bass clarinet, Richard Foote, David Sear, John Tagg and Andrew Clennell on trombones, and Stuart Barker on double bass – for the lovely lush power they give the music, and to the crucial “stoker” at the rear of the band, Jonathan Silk, for fuelling the band’s energy and being so spot-on from first beat to last.
The album was recorded a couple of months back in the fine acoustics of the (soon to be mourned) Adrian Boult Hall, and all credit to Luke Morrish-Thomas for making it sound so good with his recording, mixing and mastering.
The whole production is a testament not only to the immense amount of talent of this exciting young jazz melting pot, but to the cohesion they have as a community. Other cities may be the subject of Jacky Naylor’s marvellous music, but it was created right here in Birmingham.
- Birmingham Jazz Orchestra is playing this Saturday afternoon, in a double bill with Callum Roxburgh’s Swing Orchestra as part of Lichfield Arts’ Blues & Jazz Festival. Full details are HERE.
- Rough Boundaries is available from Bandcamp – check out Jacky Naylor’s website HERE.
Categories: CD review