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Billy Marrows and Grande Família: Penelope

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Billy Marrows and Grande Família: Penelope
London-based guitarist and composer Billy Marrows brings us a new 12-piece chamber-jazz ensemble, Billy Marrows and Grande Família. It is a family affair with members of his extended family and a wider circle of close friends and musical associates making up the group. Their debut album, Penelope, is released in memory of Marrows' mother, Penny. Most of the music was written by Marrows as a surprise for his mother during her battle with cancer. All proceeds go to World Child Cancer, a charity that brings the British National Health Service-style care she received to parts of the world that need it most.

Marrows also leads the Billy Marrows Band and the Billy Marrows Big Band. He works with Huw V Williams' Di-Cysgodion, the Tom Ridout Quintet and a number of other projects. He also finds time to be involved in music education with Guildhall Young Artists, the National Youth Jazz Collective and Morley College. The album features the band working as a full ensemble and in smaller combinations, along with some solo guitar pieces. He is joined by his partner, Teresa Macedo Ferreira on viola, Penny's nephew, Jonas Mbanu on bass and Mbanu's daughter, Dijan Mbanu on flute. The extended family rallied around to support the project financially and make it happen.

As one would expect in response to intimate family sorrow, the resulting album has melancholy moments, but these are interspersed with moments of fun and happiness, as in the excellent "A Grande Família." This has samba underpinnings and some marvellous bass and flute interplay. They are then joined by the swing of the full band, with Olli Martin's trombone being particularly creative. Greg Sanders provides rhythms on his shaker, but that is the only percussion used on the album.

Two other tracks involve the whole ensemble. "L'Heroïsme" features fine trumpet work from Mike Soper as he combines with Tom Ridout on tenor sax. Marrows rounds out the track on baritone guitar. The deceptively catchy "Nights Are Drawing In" has swirling horns, with Anna Drysdale's French horn, Chris Williams' alto saxophone and Gustavo Clayton Marucci's bass clarinet all catching the ear.

Guitar and viola combine to great effect in "February (Anjo)." Marrows plays a moving and flowing solo as Macedo Ferreira's subtle viola entwines and pulses. Marrows forms a trio with Angus Bayley on piano and Clayton Marucci on clarinet on the sprightly and evocative "Lambs." There are four solo guitar vignettes, one using a loop. Marrows shows a sensitivity of touch and considerable subtlety, especially on the baritone guitar of "The Beech Tree." "Be Right Bold" contrasts with bluesy phrases. There is also a moving improvised version of the American folk song "Shenandoah" that closes the album.

There are excellent performances throughout the album, with Jonas and Dijan Mbanu's bass and flute deserving of special mention. Marrows skills as composer and arranger are centre-stage. His compositions are melodic and distinctive. His mother was a painter and the album cover showcases her striking artwork. He emulates his mother's skills with his own use of colour, light and shade as he varies his textures via instrumental groupings. An album of inventive and contemporary chamber-jazz that serves as a worthy tribute and aids a worthy cause.

Track Listing

Penelope; Lambs; Nights Are Drawing In; The Garden; A Grande Família; The Beech Tree; February (Anjo); Be Right Bold; L'Heroïsme; Shenandoah.

Personnel

Billy Marrows
guitar, electric
Tom Ridout
saxophone
Gustavo Clayton Marucci
clarinet, bass
Mike Soper
trumpet
Olli Martin
trombone
Anna Drysdale
french horn
Jonas Mbanu
bass, electric
Chris Williams
saxophone, alto
Additional Instrumentation

Greg Sanders: shaker (5); Teresa Macedo Ferreira: viola (3,5,7,9); Dijan Mbanu: flute (3,5,9); Jonas Mbanu: bass (3,5,9); Angus Bayley: piano (2,3,5,9); Gustavo Clayton Marucci: clarinet (2), bass clarinet (3,5,9); Chris Williams: alto sax (3,5,9); Tom Ridout: soprano sax (3), clarinet (5), tenor sax (9); Mike Soper: trumpet (3,5,9); Olli Martin: trombone (3,5,9); Anna Drysdale: french horn (3,5,9).

Album information

Title: Penelope | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Self Produced


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