The second album from British trombonist, composer and arranger Tom Green's Septet follows the little-big-band's locally acclaimed Skyline (Spark), released back in 2015. Rather remarkably, the only change to the lineup since then is the replacement of alto and soprano saxophonist Matthew Herd by Tommy Andrews.
Green's specialism appears to be big bands. His other core project is the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, a co-operative 17-piece in which some of the Septet's members play. Patchwork's debut, The Adventures Of Mr Pottercakes, was released in 2019 on Spark, a label Green set up with drummer JJ Wheeler in 2014 after graduating from London's Royal Academy of Music's jazz course.
A skilled arranger, Green scores intricate, richly-textured orchestrations which make the Septet sound like a much larger outfit. He also writes strong tunes and all the pieces on Tipping Point are originals, Joni Mitchell's "My Old Man" excepted. On top of this, Green is well served by six technically adroit musicians, of whom Andrews, trumpeter James Davison and pianist Sam James make particular impressions as soloists.
So far, so good. What some listeners might like to hear more of in Tipping Point is passion. There is a palpable sense of commitment, a necessary prerequisite for successfully negotiating Green's complex and nuanced arrangements. But, by the end of the album, it is hard to escape the feeling that you have been listening to an academic exercise, one overly concerned with musicianly and writerly technique. There is energy on display here, yes, but energy is not necessarily vibrancy. It is a shame, because everything else about the album is first rate.
Tipping Point; Champagne Sky; Kaleidoscope; Between Now And Never; Seatoller; My Old Man; Jack O’Lantern; Chorale.
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