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Album Review

Brass Mask: Live

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Brass Mask: Live
London's LOOP Collective has many talented members, including saxophonist and composer Tomas Challenger and his band, Brass Mask. The nine-piece band—the octet which appeared on debut album Spy Boy (Babel Label, 2013) plus percussionist Jon Scott—mixes New Orleans, country blues, brass bands and contemporary jazz (including the influence of Henry Threadgill) and electronica. Many of these tracks appeared on that debut recording but Live, the band's second release, recorded at Servant Jazz Quarters in London, gives the tunes added punch and vibrancy.

The band's live "mish mash of styles, rhythms and colors," as Challenger puts it, reveals itself with ease across these tunes. "Francilia" opens the album like a twisted New Orleans soundtrack to a George Romero zombie movie. The traditional "Lil' Liza Jane" flies along, driven by John Blease's drums and Theon Cross' tuba—the energy and fun reminiscent of another big British band, Loose Tubes. Challenger's "Indian Red" is another joyful tune but the mood changes swiftly for "I Thank You Jesus," a mournful funeral dirge filled with wailing horns. "Nyodi" makes good use of electronics before Cross' tuba sets up a funky rhythm to act as the foundation for interplay between percussion and horns.

The frenetic "The Merman" leads in to the 10 minute closing tune, "Francis P." A number filled with shifting rhythms and tempos, it's also notable for Dan Nicholls' organ solo and some dueling trumpets courtesy of Rory Simmons and Alex Bonney. Challenger says that Brass Mask is most at home in the live setting—a claim that's amply justified by the performances on Live.

Track Listing

Francilia + Shallow Water; Lil’ Liza Jane; The Bague; Indian Red; I Thank You Jesus; Nyodi; The Merman; Francis P.

Personnel

Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone; George Crowley: tenor saxophone; Rory Simmons: trumpet; Alex Bonney: trumpet; Nathaniel Cross: trombone; Dan Nicholls: organ, percussion; Theon Cross: tuba; Jon Scott: percussion; John Blease: drums.

Album information

Title: Live | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Babel Label

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