Tom Green Septet – Skyline ,
(Spark 001. CD review by Peter Jones.)
Garlanded with honours and still only in his twenties, Tom Green is a trombonist, pianist, composer, arranger and band-leader of rare accomplishment. This debut septet album features seven tunes written by Green, plus a version of Skylark.
I first saw him perform last September as a member of Chris Biscoe’s Mingus tribute band. On that occasion he escaped the fate of Mingus’s trombonist Jimmy Knepper, who was twice hit in the face by Mingus, on the second occasion breaking a tooth and destroying his embouchure for the next two years.
There’s an obvious comparison here between what Green is doing with his septet and the music of Mingus himself, who worked with ensembles of roughly this size. Mingus also insisted on improvisation being part of the compositional process, not merely something that began once the band had played the first head. And you can hear other echoes from the great man here too, for example the cheerfully intertwining solos reminiscent of New Orleans second-line jazz, particularly on DIY.
However it wouldn’t do to make too much of the Mingus parallels. Green’s music is generally sweeter, less urban, less anarchic. In fact, there’s a certain stately grandeur to these arrangements, which sound more like they were written for a big band than for a large group. A personal favourite is Equilibrium, a long, slowly-evolving piece starting out with a moody theme initially played by the horns only, then picking up time in gentle 5/4 and building in urgency, before eventually subsiding into a series of squeaks and warbles. The original horn theme then reappears for a quiet close.
Such is the internal cohesion of the band that it’s tough to single out any of the individual musicians. Having said that, there’s a lovely Lark Ascending-type solo by Matthew Herd on soprano sax – not on Skylark, as you might expect, but on the track that follows - Winter Halo.
Skyline needs to be listened to with care. There’s a lot going on, and it richly repays your full attention.
LINK: Equilibrium on Video
The tour begins on 16th January in Bath, winding up on Colchester on 27th March. FULL LIST OF DATES,
(NOTE: Sebastian has been helping to publicize the tour and album release. This review was instigated by our reviews commissioning system, run entirely separately.)