Wiff Rudd, trumpet
Rex Richardson, trumpet
Alex Shuhan, horn and piano
Tom Brantley. trombone
Charles Villarrubia, tuba
David Gluck, drums and percussion
Reporter: Neville Young
Rhythm and Brass began their recital with a stunning, sonorous Fantasie in C Minor by J.S.Bach, their rich, warm sound giving great depth to this glorious music.
During the course of their generously-filled programme the ensemble showed both their versatility as individual musicians and the breadth of the groups repertoire. Lennon and McCartney rubbed shoulders with Shostakovich and the ensembles own player-composers as the afternoon unfolded in a patchwork of colours and texture. When you see Rhythm and Brass you quickly realize that you are not just getting a brass quintet, nor even just a brass quintet with a drummer, but an incredibly versatile group of musicians who move freely between instruments and styles so that if you can think of it, theyve probably got it covered. I was particularly taken with drummer/percussionist David Gluck covering the melody of Norwegian Wood on melodica while driving it along on the bass drum and hi-hat at the same time. I bet he can juggle, too.
Compositions by ensemble members featured largely in this recital. Rex Richardsons The Tao of Heavy D was a full-on, driving tune featuring great solos from Richardson himself and from trombonist Tom Brantley, both of whom must also be thanked for their many other great jazz solos throughout this recital. Three short pieces of ballet and film music by Shostakovich, played with great character, led us into the second half of the programme. This started with Sitting in an English Garden Waiting for the Sun, a fascinating compilation of Lennon and McCartney tunes. Beginning with an introduction by Brantley (doing what must surely have been the best British accent since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins), and visiting Flying and Because, the work finished with a splendidly direct Come Together which very much captured the feel of the original.
In their next item the ensemble showcased three new pieces by its members. These were from their CD Inside the Blue Suitcase, which consists entirely of original works, and, from this brief sample, is bound to be a must-have album for collectors of modern brass music. All three were great but I was particularly stuck by Alex Shuhans Speedy, an angular, frantic and unsettling piece which tweaked the audiences aural expectations and featured a searing piccolo trumpet jazz solo.
The genesis of Rhythm and Brasss final work, by David Gluck, is almost too complex to recount but its basically the result of an interesting collision between music from Pink Floyds The Dark Side of the Moon and the film The Wizard of Oz, with added dialogue from the David Lynch film Wild at Heart. Temporary Heartbeat offers all this and more as it progresses through an imaginative and bizarre musical smorgasbord, surprising the audience at every turn: we certainly werent in Kansas any more, Toto.
After a recital like this the audience pretty thoroughly enraptured by now wasnt going to let Rhythm and Brass go without an encore, so our final treat was a complex progression from a freely improvised start, via Caravan and a truly fantastic extended tuba solo passage (Charles Villarrubia), and into Superstition and eventually a roof-raising finish. This encore was a pretty good summary of the whole recital: stunning, complex, brilliantly played, and very very satisfying.