Tom Haines & Birmingham Jazz Orchestra

Stratford Jazz
Stratford Arts House
07-12-16

Tom Haines has written some strong music over the last few years and he wanted to get it all down on a recording. What better way than to get a crowdfunder campaign together, employ the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra to play it and take the opportunity of Stratford Jazz’s 30th birthday celebrations to put on a gig for a live recording.

The concert was held in the large, hexagonal main auditorium before a large audience nicely ranged over the years and with a healthy mix of sexes (I only mention this as it is remarkable for a genre generally more enthusiastically supported by old blokes like me).

Yitzoid, originally played by an Italian big band and winner of the Barga Composition Award in 2015, was the punchy opener with tight solos from Chris Young on alto saxophone and BJO founder Sean Gibbs on trumpet; Mystery Dog followed – it won the Eddie Harvey Jazz Arranger Of The Year award, courtesy of a NYJO performance in 2014 – with solos from David Ferris (piano), Elliot Drew (soprano saxophone), Alicia Gardener-Trejo (baritone) and Kieran Mcleod (trombone).

Common elements were emerging – yep, Mr Haines is adept at entering competitons, and winning them – but, more importantly, he composes jazz orchestral music in a really interesting and original manner. It sounded to me like he takes quite a lot of his writing influences from minimalism. So, a line emerges not from one player alone but from many players interlinking short phrases; for example, at one point the two altos of Young and Drew were playing alternating short groups of notes which taken together formed a brief melody or motif. Translate this technique across the sections and the effect is of a highly energised music (maybe it helps that Haines is a drummer) which in turn draws strong audience engagement.

We also heard Remembrance (strong guitar action from Ben Lee, and flugel mellifluence from Mike Adlington), Strange Utopia (featuring vocalist Rosie Harris struggling to rise above the full-force band, and John Fleming bringing his distinctive style to the tenor solo) and Whistleblower (another award-winner with solos from Vittorio Mura on tenor, Ferris again and Jonathan Silk on drums).

This first half was the main event, but the band completed the evening in fine form with their own compositions and arrangements. If Sean Gibbs’ writing, which bookended the set, feels more focussed and better played that might just be because the band has played these pieces from the beginning, including recording it on the album Burns.

The sound balance in the room was a little odd – it’s not often that acoustic piano and double bass are too high in a big band mix – but overall this was another fine showing from the BJO and an introduction to a composer I would welcome hearing more from.



Categories: Live review

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