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High Brass: Time for a Change (2005)

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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

As this review is being written from an advance copy of Time for a Change by the High Brass from Liverpool, England, courtesy of director John Flannery, I have no details save for the names of selections and soloists, and a few words about the band supplied by Flannery in a letter, so let's begin there.

High Brass was formed in 2000 by former members of the UK's brass and marching bands, many of whom teach and arrange for brass ensembles in northwest England. None of them is a full-time professional musician, one fact that is almost too mind-blowing to believe. There are no reeds; the band has a four-piece mellophone section and the lower brass choir uses valve baritone horns rather than trombones.

According to Flannery, this is the band's third recording, "but probably our most adventurous. I'll second that. As six of the ten charts were designed by maestro Bob Curnow, a palpable Kenton aura enfolds the enterprise, reinforced by the inclusion of two compositions by the late Hank Levy, "Time for a Change and "Quintessence, and Bill Holman's fiery "Malagueña, smartly arranged by Tez Smith (as was Paul Hart's soulful "Remembrance ). Curnow wrote "Chicago III Suite" and "Scorpion Dance and arranged Pat Metheny's ballad "So It May Secretly Begin and Bill Whelan's rhythmic "Riverdance, which debuted on the album Towednack with Germany's SWR Big Band (and was revised for the brass by Flannery and Chris Billington). Billington arranged Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns, Flannery "Here's That Rainy Day (which is not quite as breathtaking as Dee Barton's classic Kenton chart, but surprisingly close).

Although brass and rhythm predominate, each of the arrangements leaves room for solos, and those who step forward acquit themselves well, especially Billington and Mark Geraghty (baritone horn), Smith (trumpet and flugelhorn), Flannery (flugel), pianist Peter Watson and drummer Simon Coupe.

Another album to be filed under "p for "pleasant surprises —so consistently entertaining that I never even missed the saxophones. Amateurs? You've got to be kidding! As noted, Time for a Change hasn't yet been released, and I don't know when that might happen, but it is definitely worth pursuing.

Visit the High Brass on the web.

Track Listing: Chicago III Suite; Time for a Change; So It May Secretly Begin; Riverdance; Quintessence; Scorpion Dance; Send in the Clowns; Remembrance; Heres That Rainy Day; Malaguea (64:18).

Personnel: Mark Geraghty, Chris Billington, baritone horn; Wayne Cooksley, trumpet; Tez Smith, trumpet, flugelhorn; John Flannery, Nicky Coupe, flugelhorn; Gaz Twist, guitar; Peter Watson, Ian Blundell, piano; Simon Coupe, drums. Others unlisted.

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Big Band


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