Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

275

Bob Curnow & the SWR Big Band: Towednack

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
After hearing Bob Curnow's wonderful Celtic-inspired big-band composition, "Towednack," introduced at a convention of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) several years ago in Anaheim, CA, I hurried to the Sierra Music Publications booth in the exhibition hall (where I knew I'd find him) to applaud the composer. "Absolutely brilliant!" I gushed, or words to that effect. "You simply have to record that someday."

And now here it is, sounding as radiant as I remembered it, on a marvelous new album by Germany's world-class SWR Big Band, complemented by four more of Curnow's superlative compositions and nine of his arrangements including a similarly impressive treatment of Bill Whelan's electrifying theme from the acclaimed Irish extravaganza "Riverdance." Curnow, who as a young man played trombone in the Stan Kenton Orchestra, wrote the pensive "Of Another Time" in Stan's memory, and compiled the ten-minute-long "Kenton Kollage" that precedes it by cleverly splicing together a number of Stan's most popular themes, from "Artistry in Rhythm" and "Eager Beaver" to "Intermission Riff" and "The Peanut Vendor" (with several others also heard).

Curnow certainly found the right band to play them, as SWR rises to the challenge and performs both charts magnificently, as it does everything else. Curnow also composed the playful "Keystone Shuffle," the snappy "Spencer Is Here!" (dedicated to the arrival of his latest grandson) and the enchanting "Lullaby Waltz," and arranged a trio of themes by guitarist Pat Metheny, the warm-blooded ballads "Too Soon Tomorrow" and "Not to Be Forgotten" and the rhythmically elaborate "5-5-7" (the last co-written with Lyle Mays). Returning to "Towednack" (subtitled Home Parish ), the essay derives its inspiration from the area of Cornwall that was home to Curnow's forebears. According to the liner notes, Curnow visited Cornwall, studied Celtic music, and "combined varying rhythms with ever-changing accentuations, employed pentatonic scales reminiscent of folk music, wove together all of this in constant alternation and managed to create a big band piece of art from it which is absolutely Jazz."

No matter how he did it, the finished product is, to these ears, a modest masterpiece. Curnow's other compositions are no less engaging in their own way, as are those by Metheny, but aside from "Towednack" it is "Riverdance" that most emphatically inflames the imagination and gladdens the soul. How good is Curnow's chart? Well, I don't often mention my wife, Betty, in my reviews, as her allegiance to classical music is so firm that I listen on headphones so as not to disturb the peace and quiet of our home, but after I played "Riverdance" for her, she said, "I want a copy of that—and one for my sister June!" Endorsements simply don't get much better than that.

And we can't over-praise the fabulous SWR Big Band and its phalanx of enterprising soloists—tenors J'rg Kaufmann ("Towednack," "Too Soon Tomorrow," "Not to Be Forgotten," soprano on "Riverdance") and Andy Maile ("Keystone Shuffle," "Lullaby Waltz"), trumpeters Claus Reichstaller ("Too Soon," "Of Another Time") and Karl Farrent ("Shuffle," "Riverdance"), trombonists Ernst Hutter ("Shuffle") and Marc Godfroid ("Spencer," "Lullaby"), altos Axel K'hn ("Spencer") and Klaus Graf ("5-5-7"), pianist Klaus Wagenleiter ("Kollage," "Not to Be Forgotten"), bassist Decebal Badilla ("Shuffle"), guitarist Klaus-Peter Sch'pfer ("5 -5-7") and last but not least, the formidably endowed young drummer Holger Nell ("Shuffle," "Riverdance").

Are German big bands eligible for the Grammy Awards? Quick, someone, find a rule book! If they do qualify, and if you are a voting member of NARAS, please listen to Towednack before casting next year's vote for best big-band album of the year.

Contact: CK Records, Kirchstrasse 1 / 1, D?71726 Benningen, Germany (phone 07144 1 28 33; fax 07144 1 20 42; e-mail mmck@karinfarrent.de).


Track Listing: Towednack (Home Parish); Too Soon Tomorrow; Kenton Kollage; Of Another Time (in memory of Stan Kenton); Keystone Shuffle; Not to Be Forgotten; Spencer Is Here!; 5-5-7; Lullaby Waltz; Riverdance (75:48).

Personnel: Bob Curnow, conductor, composer, arranger; Klaus Graf, Axel K?hn, alto sax; J?rg Kaufmann, Andreas Maile, tenor sax; Pierre Paquette, baritone sax; Thomas Vogel, Claus Reichstaller, Karl Farrent, Rudolf Reindl, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ernst Hutter, Marc Godfroid, Ian Cumming, trombone; Georg Maus, bass trombone, tuba; Klaus Wagenleiter, piano; Klaus-Peter Sch?pfer, guitar; Decebal Badila, bass; Holger Nell, drums.

Title: Towednack | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: CK Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Live at Nectar’s" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Nectar’s
by Joe Gatto
Published: May 14, 2017
Read "Flux Reflux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording" CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 11, 2018
Read "Manhattan EP" CD/LP/Track Review Manhattan EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "Over the Rainbow" CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Cross-Platform Interchange" CD/LP/Track Review Cross-Platform Interchange
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 4, 2017