Classical CD Reviews

New classical music releases reviewed in detail by Gavin Dixon

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Richard Cross A Walk on the Wild Side

 "Ten lush trombone quartets"
Richard Cross – trombone (multitracked)
Turned on Music TMC-001

Richard Cross offers "ten lush trombone quartets" on this CD A Walk on the Wild Side. As the description suggests, they're all pretty jazzy, mostly laid-back standards that will be familiar to jazzers, but that come out sounding sprightly and fresh in Rich's arrangements.
All of the arrangements here are by Richard himself, and the disc has been produced partly to promote his publishing enterprise He has been making quite a name for himself with these quartet settings in recent years, and performers who have taken them up include Don Lucas, president of the International Trombone Association, and Bones Apart, Britain’s only all-girl trombone quartet.
If the four players on this disc all sound similar, that's because they are all actually Rich himself, doing some clever multitracking to add all the parts in. That tactic has its pros and cons. There is not much room for rubato – there's some but it's not exactly spontaneous. Also, it is a shame that the bass trombone part is not played on a bass trombone, although Richard's playing in the lower register is rich and focussed, and rarely lacks weight. The pros of the multitracking plan are that all the parts are played to an equally high standard and with equal stylistic sympathy to the music.
This is obviously the kind of music that Richard loves. The fact that he is both performer and arranger raises questions about exactly how many of the ornaments are actually on the page. There a few cheeky wobbles and slides here and there, for instance in "The Nearness of You", that really bring the music to life. He occasionally goes right up to the edge of good taste with these, but he never crosses it.
The arrangements themselves are all very slick. It sounds like he keeps all the players busy, although obviously it is difficult to tell exactly who is doing what. For anybody considering playing these, they sound like the sort of arrangements that create maximum impact without overtaxing the players. And the first trombone part hardly ever goes up into the stratosphere, which will be a relief for some. The "Summertime" arrangement is particularly elegant. The theme is followed by a complex set of variations, which I assume are by Gershwin himself, but which fit very neatly into the quartet format. And the opening track is a stunner – "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by the recently deceased John Barry. It seems like an obvious choice for a trombone quartet arrangement, and Rich plays it for all it's worth. If he's thinking of a sequel to this disc, he could easily fill a whole album with James Bond theme tune arrangements.
The recorded sound is good. It is quite a dry studio acoustic but the trombone sound is always clear and immediate. The producer for the album was none other than Kevin Morgan, principle trombone of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, so it is little surprise that all the qualities of the trombone sound are perfectly captured.
A fun disc then, and one containing all sorts of gems for trombone quartets in search of some new repertoire. If you're in that world, you will probably bump into Rich and his trade stand at some event or other in due course. When you do, pick up a copy of the disc, and the dots for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" – the perfect opener for your next concert!
Gavin Dixon

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