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Jack Davies Big Band: The Jack Davies Big Band

Chris May By

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Jack Davies Big Band

The Jack Davies Big Band

V&V Music

2012

With its debut album, trumpeter and composer Jack Davies' big band has joined an elite strand of British orchestras—Loose Tubes, flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler's outfits and Colin Towns' Mask Orchestra prominent among them—which have enriched and expanded the original big band aesthetic imported from the US. A graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), where he studied classical music, and the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where he took the Jazz Masters course, Davies' contribution is to have assembled an 18-piece outfit which seamlessly and winningly combines the jazz tradition with the work of contemporary-classical composers.

Marked out as a high achiever at the RNCM, where he won awards including the Principal's Prize for Improvisation (a competition judged by saxophonist John Dankworth), in his final year at the RAM, Davies won the financially generous Deutsche Bank Award for Performance and Composition. The proceeds of this allowed him to set up his own label, V&V Music, and record The Jack Davies Big Band—produced by Colin Towns—along with two small group albums which will be released later in 2012.

The big band features some of Britain's most distinctive young jazz players along with a smattering of older hands—alto saxophonists Martin Speake and Mike Chillingworth, tenor saxophonists Josh Arcoleo and Joe Wright, trumpeters Nick Smart and Percy Pursglove, trombonists Richard Foote and Keiran McLeod, guitarist Alex Munk and bassist James Opstad. It is a line-up which glitters with individual talent and Davies has welded it into a tight and precise unit; the Deutsche Bank Award clearly allowed rehearsal time to be included in the budget. Funds were not infinite, however: The Jack Davies Big Band was recorded in its entirely on 6 December, 2011.

The album is in two parts. The first five tracks are standalone tunes, the second five comprise Davies' "1984 Suite," inspired by people and events in George Orwell's nightmarish novel. The disc's opener, "Entropy," is a big, attention-getting curtain-raiser which features fellow RAM alumnus Josh Arcoleo—a muscular Sonny Rollins-inspired player who is still only 23 years old, and whose own debut, the highly recommended Beginnings, was released on Edition Records in February 2012—and fellow tenorist Joe Wright on electronics. Wright's abstract effects are deftly woven into the orchestral arrangement, sitting in it rather than outside it. It is followed by the speedy, jittery "(I Had) A Bad Dream;" the melancholic "Some New Infection," whose opening passages evoke a northern English brass band and which includes a fine trombone solo from Richard Foote; a brief free track ("I Will Wait For You To Get Up/You Will Wait For A Long Time"); and "Circle," a sinuous, canon-like piece which serves as a vehicle for solos from James Opstad, Joe Wright (on tenor), Nick Smart, Mike Chillingworth and Alex Munk. Throughout, Davies' arrangements focus on the jazz tradition but are bent and refreshed by voicings and harmonies which evoke mid- to late-20th century orchestral composers.

At 20 minutes, the compelling, five-part "1984 Suite" is way too short, and begs to be expanded into a full-length treatment of the book. Guitarist Alex Munk and drummer Jon Ormston are featured on the opener, the martial "Telescreen," taking it into menacing, hard-rock territory which effectively summons up the state broadcaster's Two Minutes Hate "news" films. The intimate ""If There Is Hope" is a short solo showcase for Joe Wright, on tenor and electronics. The carefree waltz, "Dance Of The Proles," is the most conventionally-scored track on the disc, with lyrical solos from Arcoleo, Reuben Fowler (on flugelhorn) and Martin Speake. Pianist Tom Taylor's brief meditation, the pretty "Thrush Song," sets up the closer, "Mr Charrington's Shop," initially full of innocence and wonder, well captured by Alex Munk's melodic guitar solo, but ending—with a nod to later events in the book—with a more intense and dramatic solo from Arcoleo.

An exciting debut from a composer and bandleader who, it is to be hoped, has only just begun.

Tracks: Entropy; (I Had) A Bad Dream; Some New Infection; I Will Wait For You/You Will Wait A Long Time; Circle; 1984 Suite: Telescreen, If There Is Hope, Dance Of The Proles, Thrush Song, Mr Charrington's Shop.

Personnel: Martin Speake: alto saxophone; Mike Chillingworth: alto saxophone; Josh Arcoleo: tenor saxophone; Joe Wright: tenor saxophone, electronics; Rob Cope: baritone saxophone; Andy Greenwood: trumpet; Tom Walsh: trumpet; Percy Pursglove: trumpet; Nick Smart: trumpet; Reuben Fowler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kieran McLeod: trombone; Richard Foote: trombone; Patrick Hayes: trombone; Ed Hilton: trombone; Alex Munk: guitar; Tom Taylor: piano; James Opstad: bass; Jon Ormston: drums; Jack Davies: composer, arranger, conductor.

Track Listing: Entropy; (I Had) A Bad Dream; Some New Infection; I Will Wait For You/You Will Wait A Long Time; Circle; 1984 Suite: Telescreen, If There Is Hope, Dance Of The Proles, Thrush Song, Mr Charrington's Shop.

Personnel: Martin Speake: alto saxophone; Mike Chillingworth: alto saxophone; Josh Arcoleo: tenor saxophone; Joe Wright: tenor saxophone, electronics; Rob Cope: baritone saxophone; Andy Greenwood: trumpet; Tom Walsh: trumpet; Percy Pursglove: trumpet; Nick Smart: trumpet; Reuben Fowler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kieran McLeod: trombone; Richard Foote: trombone; Patrick Hayes: trombone; Ed Hilton: trombone; Alex Munk: guitar; Tom Taylor: piano; James Opstad: bass; Jon Ormston: drums; Jack Davies: composer, arranger, conductor.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: V&V Music | Style: Modern Jazz


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