When reviewing two earlier discs, recorded some five years ago by Nottinghamshire, England’s community–based youth orchesra, The Brassery, we noted that the band was relatively immature, that the recordings were a “harbinger of things to come,” and that the ensemble would doubtless show improvement as it gained more experience. Three years onward (1999), and The Brassery — with its smaller offshoot, Brasstax — has recorded again in front of an audience. While the enthusiasm remains high, progress in other areas has been slower, owing perhaps to the inevitable turnover in bands of its type as young people grow up, leave school and / or move away. Although the concert venue does the band no favors, the various sections appear to be reasonably well–rehearsed and generally on target (although they are clearly unable to swing as freely as older, more seasoned musicians can). The more palpable weakness, as we pointed out in that earlier review, lies with the soloists, none of whom is yet wholly at ease in that arduous role. The Brassery advances rapidly from one tune to the next (all save two are less than four minutes long) before surrendering the stage to Brasstax for the last six numbers. Basie and Ellington are on the larger group’s menu alongside compositions by Louie Bellson (“Basically Bossa”) and Fats Waller (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”), the Peggy Lee signature, “Fever,” Robert Jackson’s “Sweet Home Chicago,” Andy Clark’s “Dirty Dozen,” the standard “How High the Moon” and Richie Valens’ late–’50s mega–hit, “La Bamba.” Brasstax, recorded in a studio, gives a fairly good account of itself, but as its members also play in the big band, the solos are predictably uninspiring. After opening with Clifford Brown’s “Blues Walk,” the eight–piece Brasstax plays Nathan Bray’s “PGT,” Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” Andy Hamilton’s “Mango Time” (a thinly disguised “Billy Boy”) and Rene Luis Toledo’s “Samba de Amore.” To Brasstax and The Brassery, we say — hang in there, guys (and gals); you’re inching ever closer to your target, and the time may soon arrive when you'll be able to stand eye-to-eye with your older and more worldly-wise counterparts. Until then, it's back to the woodshed to work even harder on those improvisations!
Contact:Alistair Conquer, Arts Support Service, Centre for the Performing Arts, College Street, Nottingham NG1 5AQ, England; phone +44 (0) 115 947 6202; fax +44 (0) 115 941 1073; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org