Review – Eclectic Brass

Saturday 17th November 2007
Mayfair Theatre Dunedin
Conductor – Steve Miles
Guest Artists – Cambio

Saturday 17th November brought a close to the St Kilda Brass 2007 Southern Victorian Charitable Trust Concert series with an evening of entertainment entitled ‘Eclectic Brass’ at Dunedin’s Mayfair Theatre. This was another unusual collaboration for the band, the last concert in the series featured Brass Band and Violin and tonight’s guest artists came in the form of a Jazz Fusion group called ‘Cambio’.

Looking at the programme it became obvious that the 1st half of the concert was a journey through music of the 20th Century with samples of music from different genres, hence the name Eclectic Brass I suppose. The concert got under way with William Rimmer’s March the Black Knight, very precise and stately playing with some fine dynamic contrasts. Moving forward a couple of years to 1914, next was Euday L Bowman’s classic 12th Street Rag featuring some very tight ensemble playing from a Cornet Trio of Chris Gillum, Rowena Howard and Stacey Ward.

John Lewis is St Kilda Brass’s usual Principal Cornet player but on this occasion John was unavailable which made way for the bands usual Repiano Cornet player Hamish Miller to show off his skills, and show off he did with a cracking rendition of Harry James Trumpet Concerto from the late 1930’s.

Another soloist followed with Tim Walsh taking us into the 1950’s with a Frank Sinatra hit All The Way. Tim displayed some very fine controlled Trombone playing throughout with superb intonation particularly in the high register.

Next on the programme was music from the Beatles and an arrangement of Ticket to Ride that I haven’t heard for years. The band really created the atmosphere of a Train starting up and getting moving through the opening sections with equally impressive atmosphere in the final few bars. From the 60’s to the 70’s and one of the most recognizable of Jazz Standards, Zawinal’s Birdland. The band did well to capture the relaxed Jazz style in this number, which is something that is often overlooked by Brass Bands when playing Jazz, and managed to keep the ensemble tight throughout. Gary Valentine on Soprano was on particularly fine form. Another soloist followed with music from the 1979 film Children of Sanchez. This featured Marty Kibble on Flugel who gave us a wonderfully expressive rendition of Chuck Mangione’s score. The ensemble between band and soloist in this number was not always at its best and there were occasionally some uneasy moments but nevertheless exciting stuff. Into the 1980’s next with some Acid House music arranged by Rodney Newton for the Williams Fairey Bands Acid Brass project, Lets Get Brutal. This featured the Saints fine Percussion section, Samdrub Dawa, Justine Pierre and Neil Pickering.

The finale of the first half was another Rodney Newton piece, this time not an arrangement but an original composition based on Romanian and Bulgarian Gypsy Aires, Echoes of the East. So many different colors, dynamic contrasts and even some slick choreography enhanced the incredibly exciting performance which brought both the band and audience to their feet at the finish. Though very exciting and entertaining there were a couple of moments of poor intonation in the louder dynamics particularly when instrument were facing out towards the audience, but that’s just being ‘picky’ I loved it!

The second half started with the band in an unorthodox set up with the whole band stood behind a seated Bass section. Again some exciting playing here of Peter Graham’s Windows of the World which suffered a little from being unbalanced in the slow music. Partly to do with Trombones facing out I think, but some very warm sounds on offer together with rampant and powerful vocal lines in Drums of Thunder. The word Cambio literally translates ‘to change’ and that is what the evening’s guest artists are all about. A group of Jazz musicians comprising of Trevor Coleman – Keyboard/Trumpet, Nick Cornish – Sax, Dan Bendrups – Trombone, Dave Harrison – Guitar, Rob Burns – Bass and Rob Craigie – Drums, this sextet carries with them a phenomenal amount of talent and experience. Cambio’s contribution to the concert came in the form of 5 almost original compositions. I say almost because even the items that were based on well known Jazz Standards were altered dramatically and very cleverly.

The popular Jazz Standards Take Five and A Night in Tunisia were performed in different Time Signatures to the originals, Take Five with an added beat and A Night in Tunisia with a beat taken away. Other items were Sugar and 2 original compositions from a series of pieces written by the band in a Jam session back in 2002, subject to Change 2 and Subject to Change 5. The incredible array of solo talent and technical mastery of instruments, not to mention mastery of the Jazz idiom, was simply breathtaking and watching Trevor Coleman play Trumpet and Keyboard at the same time was worth the ticket price alone. Despite the absolutely superb entertainment on offer with this group there were a couple of moments of unbalance where the soloists didn’t quite come over the amplified sounds of the Guitar, Bass & Keyboard.

To finish off the concert the Saints took to the stage once more, stood around the back of Cambio for combined items of Malaguena, El Cumbanchero and Sing Sing Sing. The cohesion of sound from the massed forces was quite exceptional and the ensemble remained extremely tight throughout. Once again unbelievable solo playing was on offer from the evenings guests and in particular Rob Craigie who’s Drumming was the glue between the two ensembles. The second half finished in the same manner as the first with audience members on their feet this time shouting for more which unfortunately they did not get – maybe next time!

Another truly unique concert that was fully entertaining. I look forward to seeing what the band can come up with next!

Sean McDonald