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Superlocrian: Hills & Valleys

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Superlocrian: Hills & Valleys
Based in South West England, Superlocrian is an acoustic septet specialising in chamber jazz. Presumably named after the altered scale, they are led by trumpeter Sam Massey, the main composer and musical director. Their debut album, Hills & Valleys, a blend of five originals and three cover versions, features a neat blend of woodwind and brass. The unusual configuration of tuba, trombone, two woodwinds and three trumpets/flugelhorns provides the platform for them to build their sound. The sonic landscape they produce is contemporary with an occasional lighthearted touch.

Massey, who composed four of the tunes, has performed with artists as varied as Mike Westbrook, Paul Weller and Clare Teal. The other original tune was written by trombonist Tom Green, the leader of Tom Green septet. They are accompanied by trumpeters Gavin Mallett (Dame Shirley Bassey) and Hugh Davies (Johnny Mathis). The range of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones are provided by the classically trained Edward Leaker together with Jade Gall. Mike Poyser completes the line-up, his skill on the tuba has been a feature of many large ensembles.

The opening two tracks were inspired by areas of Dartmoor National Park. The splendidly arranged "Whitchurch Down" features space for the entire ensemble to play their part. Massey's trumpet leads the way, while Poyser's tuba pulses, Green's trombone swings and Gall's flute converses with all. A hint of folk music underpins the title track, which features an inventively flowing solo from Leaker on soprano sax.

Inventive rhythms and Mallett's flugelhorn gently guide "Ballad For Kenny" through its stages. "2020" is the final of Massey's compositions and pays playful reference to events of the year. Green's trombone, a sassy tenor sax from Gall and Mallett's trumpet all solo over more fine tuba work from Poyser. The creative melody of Green's "Snake's Meadow" is delivered with a catchy light touch and features the composer on trombone.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Close To You" is the first of three covers. The arrangement is thoughtful and is enlivened by Green's trombone. "Rainy Days and Mondays," made famous by The Carpenters, features a first-rate arrangement from Massey and an outstanding solo from Leaker, amongst other strong contributions that make the track sparkle. Themes from James Bond films are ever popular and "Nobody Does It Better" is the crowd-pleasing choice here.

Throughout the (fairly scant) 30 minutes, the album provides rich layers and blends of brass and woodwind that entertain. This versatile ensemble stylishly delivers its material with creative musicianship, all arranged with elegance and flair to make this a sophisticated debut.

Track Listing

Whitchurch Down; Hills & Valleys; Close To You; Ballad For Kenny; Snake's Meadow; Rainy Days and Mondays; Nobody Does It Better; 2020.

Personnel

Sam Massey
flugelhorn
Hugh Davies
trumpet
Edward Leaker
saxophone
Jade Gall
saxophone
Tom Green
trombone
Additional Instrumentation

Gavin Mallet: flugelhorn (4).

Album information

Title: Hills & Valleys | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Spark


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