2

Onyx Brass: Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet

Gareth Thompson By

Sign in to view read count
Onyx Brass: Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet
Jazz has often been described as America's classical music, so hearing a British classical group tackling jazz is bound to intrigue. Even more so when it's a brass quintet and we recognise the key role of brass bands in the birth of jazz.

Onyx Brass trombonist Amos Miller was at the Banff International Jazz Summer School in 1994. One of the tutors taking part was Kenny Wheeler. Move ahead to 2012 and Miller phoned Wheeler asking him to compose something for Onyx Brass. Only two years before he sadly passed away, the great trumpet and flugelhorn player responded with typical grace. He reworked two of his earlier tunes into the piece "1 For 5" which delivers a mix of sultry swing and romantic waltzes. Nino Rota's soundtracks come to mind here, with a sense of la dolce vita being lived up.

This is jazz played by classical musicians, so the result is more stately than subversive. It might be very English in essence, but American roots music is noted among the twelve composers who contribute original pieces. Devoid of any percussion, the quintet relies on its own sense of internal rhythm. Nowhere more so than opening cut "Stomper," which sashays in with a bright pulsation, like a Mardi Gras wedding dance. "Holy Chalcedony," by veteran bassist Laurence Cottle, is solemn and soulful, yet laced with Southern gothic. "Firebox" pays homage to steam trains, from its chuffing puffing intro that rolls into "Sunny South Sam" and "The Federal Express," nodding at Britain's heritage of colliery brass bands en route.

Onyx Brass celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with this album, and despite forging a repute for chamber music, the five-piece knows how to transform. "The Mighty Pencil" sees them throw the party open to improv, with each player chirping together. "For Rosie" is tinged with quiet nostalgia and "Imaginary Dance" shows balletic grace amid its call and response boomings.

Jason Rebello offers "Inevitable Outcome," a piece inspired by life's pathways that treads cautiously before the strident chords flow. "Symbols At Your Door" by tuba maestro David Powell quite reasonably has a warming tuba solo, with a touch of tango and hymnal motifs. The title track sees film music arranger Guy Barker take his movie know-how and site it on the corner of 73rd Avenue in a trench coat. The tuba suggests a brooding private detective, as shifty trombones lurk in the shadows.

David Lefeber's recording places each number in the present with a vivid production, linking up many facets of jazz composition. Onyx Noir is a brave and often brilliant collection of works.

Track Listing

Stomper; Holy Chalcedony; 1 For 5; The Mighty Pencil; For Rosie; Inevitable Outcome; Symbols At Your Door; Imaginary Dance; Onyx Noir; Hamlet Stories; Firebox; Let Her Go.

Personnel

Niall Keatley: trumpet; Alan Thomas: trumpet; Andrew Sutton: horn; Amos Miller: trombone; David Gordon-Shute: tuba.

Album information

Title: Onyx Noir - Jazz Works For Brass Quintet | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: NMC Recordings

Post a comment about this album

Watch

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus
Ikue Mori / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura
Read Time OutTakes
Time OutTakes
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Read In Baltimore
In Baltimore
The George Coleman Quintet

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.