6

Callum Au Big Band: Something's Coming

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Callum Au Big Band: Something's Coming Trombonist and arranger Callum Au has amassed a remarkable wealth of experience, playing or arranging for, among others, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Oxford University Big Band (he graduated from the university in 2011), Seth MacFarlane and Buddy Greco. He's a busy man—a list of his projects suggests that he's discovered the secret of the 30-hour day—and he's now found time to release his own debut, Something's Coming.

Au has brought together a group of talented young players, assisted by guest appearances from singers Emma Smith (also an ex-NYJO member) and Iain Mackenzie (BBC Big Band and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra), and from the well-established saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock and flautist Gareth Lockrane.

From the opening bars of Harry Warren's "September In The Rain" the band exudes warmth and confidence. It also swings, guitarist Jon Russell, bassist Laurence Ungless and drummer Ed Richardson establishing the feel with ease. Lockrane's "Roots" has a bluesy atmosphere—Hitchcock's high-energy alto and Russell's slick guitar solos fit right in. Trumpeter Freddie Gavita's "Beloved" is contrastingly gentler and more reflective and Au's own "Gentleman Jack"—dedicated to bass trombonist Jack Thirlwall—ends the album with a return to an upbeat swing.

The centerpiece is a suite from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. Some of the most recognizable and best-loved songs from one of the classic musicals, rearranged, re-harmonized and given something of a culture shift. Well, if Au's brave—or foolhardy—enough to stick his head over the musical parapet fair play to him. If the gamble fails, it fails. It doesn't fail.

A major contributing factor is Au's wise decision to avoid trying to make this British band sound like Sharks or Jets. "Cool" and "Something's Coming" capture the pace and energy of New York without the aggression. "America" lacks the fiery irony of the movie version and the bombast of the instrumental by '60s rockers The Nice, replacing them with a calmer, more positive, tone—everything really is OK in America.

Smith's beautiful vocal is the highlight of "Somewhere," but the song also benefits from exceptional solos by pianist Chris Eldred and Lockrane, on bass flute. Mackenzie's vocal on "Maria" is Mel Torme smooth. Best of all is "Tonight." The song's emotional intensity is held just a little more in check than usual, the two lovers are just a bit more controlled, almost as if West Side Story was based on the classic movie Brief Encounter (1945) rather than on Romeo and Juliet. This touch of English reticence gives the song an added poignancy, the doomed romance gaining even more pathos.

Something's Coming is, at its heart, a swinging big band album. It follows with irrefutable logic, therefore, that Au's ensemble is a swinging big band. That, in itself, would be a cause for celebration in these austere times, but Au makes it more than that, giving it a sense of dynamics, a feeling for the emotions and subtleties of the music as well as its swing. Something's Coming is something (very) good indeed.


Track Listing: September In The Rain; Roots; Something's Coming; Maria; Cool; Somewhere; America; Tonight; Beloved; Gentleman Jack.

Personnel: Callum Au: tenor trombone, euphonium; Lucas Dodd: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jim Gold: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Simon Marsh: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Tommy Laurence: tenor saxophone; Richard Shepherd: baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Tom Walsh: trumpet, flugelhorn; George Hogg: trumpet, flugelhorn; Freddie Gavita: trumpet, flugelhorn; Henry Armburg Jennings: trumpet, flugelhorn; Robbie Harvey: tenor trombone; Ross Anderson: trombone, bass trombone; Barry Clements: bass trombone, tuba; Jon Russell: guitar; Chris Eldred: piano, keyboards; Laurence Ungless: double bass, bass guitar; Ed Richardson: drums; Gareth Lockrane: flute, piccolo (2-8); Nigel Hitchcock: alto saxophone (2, 7, 8); Peter Long: tuba (1, 5, 7); Emma Smith: vocals (6, 8); Iain Mackenzie: vocals (4, 8).

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Inner Agent" CD/LP/Track Review Inner Agent
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 20, 2016
Read "Piano Mating" CD/LP/Track Review Piano Mating
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 28, 2016
Read "San José Suite" CD/LP/Track Review San José Suite
by Nigel Campbell
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "We Are The World" CD/LP/Track Review We Are The World
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "Aritmia" CD/LP/Track Review Aritmia
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 23, 2016
Read "Real Feels - Live Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Real Feels - Live Vol. 1
by Mark F. Turner
Published: December 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!