Review: Reuben Fowler Big Band at Kings Place

James Gardiner-Bateman, soloist, Reuben Fowler, directing
Dundry. Kings Place. 18th January 2014


Reuben Fowler Big Band
Kings Place Hall Two. 18th January 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)


Outings for this band are very rare. Not least because Reuben Fowler has been busy recently, including a spell on tour with Boy George, as he wrote in a PREVIEW of this gig for us.

The word definitely gets out about how persuasive and fluent Reuben Fowler's writing for big band is, and this concert in Kings Place's Saturday evening The Base series was virtually full and received enthusiastic audience response.

The main difference between the Between Shadows album launch in July last year - REVIEWED HERE  and last night's gig was that Guy Barker, who has been a fervent supporter of Reuben Fowler's developing presence as composer/ arranger, was not there to conduct, and that the composer himself stepped in to direct the band. Some of the architecture of the pieces and shaping of sections went missing, but there were also gains: Reuben Fowler's conducting brought home different aspects such as the constant rhythmic punch and asymmetry of a lot of the music.  To me it felt more accented, more driven.

Gareth Lockrane's soloing on the Tom Harrell tune Angela had been a definite highlight of the gig at the Forge, and did not disappoint last night. Stan Sulzmann's soprano sax soloing in both halves was remarkable for the variety. In the first half he was at the heart of shaping inexorable rises in intensity, to which, like chamber musicians, every member of the band responded. In the second half he played as more of a detached observer, commenting, responding. The rhythm section, with newcomer Chris Montague were impeccable. People who know Montague's playing from Troyka will have been surprised at the quality and fluency of his more conventional playing - like many jazz musicians, he can call on a cast of different characters to appear. I'd also like to salute the fact that all three of these named soloists also run big bands in their own right. The informal infrastructure which keeps this music and playing of this quality alive is a very strong flame indeed.

It is to be hoped that Reuben Fowler can be encouraged to add to an already hugely impressive set of pieces for big band; and soon.

Personnel

 TRUMPETS: Mike Lovatt, George Hogg, Percy Pursglove, Freddie Gavita

WOODWINDS: Sam Mayne, James Gardiner-Bateman, Joe Wright, George Crowley, Rob Cope

TROMBONES: Robbie Harvey, Gordon Campbell, Kieran McLeod, Ross Anderson

RHYTHM SECTION: Chris Montague (g) Matt Robinson (p) Tom McCredie (b) Dave Hamblett (d)

SOLOISTS: Stan Sulzmann (soprano saxophone), Gareth Lockrane (flutes and piccolo)

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