CD REVIEW: Charlie Bates Big Band - Silhouettes



Charlie Bates Big Band featuring Percy Pursglove - Silhouettes
(Charlie Bates. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans).

Charlie Bates is a young pianist and composer who has recently graduated with First Class Honours from the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire. He is a gifted pianist who runs an excellent quartet, but he is also developing strong skills in the area of composition; in 2016 he won the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Composition prize adjudicated by Tim Garland. On this album we have five of his compositions for big band that are written to feature Percy Pursglove, another Birmingham Conservatoire graduate, on trumpet and flugelhorn.

His main influence seems to come from Kenny Wheeler's writing for his various large ensembles, but I also detect the influence of John Dankworth, especially on Track 3, High Rise. Bates has the ability to create very rich and powerful textures that set off Pursglove's solos to great effect. It is perhaps a more traditional approach to the big band sound, but this is offset by the more contemporary sound that Pursglove brings to the mix.

Track 1, Cyanopsia, is an excellent example of Bates' approach. He creates a very big, sometimes lush and sometimes brassy sound from the front line which is strongly supported by the very tight rhythm section of Sam Ingvorsen on double bass and Jonathan Silk on drums. Pursglove comes out of the ensemble in dramatic fashion with two solos of great originality. Sam Craig also takes a strong solo on tenor saxophone. Track 2, Almost Gone, is more mellow with lovely writing for the woodwind section of clarinet and bass clarinet. Pursglove impresses again as does Richard Foote who takes a lengthy solo on trombone.

Track 3, High Rise, is shortest track at 5.39 mins; it starts quite gently but the band builds up to an impressive climax behind Pursglove's solo. Track 4, Eyes Shut, follows a similar pattern to Track 3 building up to a strong climax. It also has an attractive short opening statement from Pursglove accompanied by pianist Jacky Naylor and a soprano saxophone solo from Elliot Drew. The final track, Eyes Open, is the longest at 10.34 mins. It features a  beautifully judged piano solo from Naylor and what, for me, is the most exciting solo from Pursglove as he gradually takes his solo out into more contemporary territory.

There is little doubt that this band is a very strong addition to the Birmingham and West Midlands scene that already features a number of excellent big bands. I look forward to its development and perhaps a bit of experimentation with some electronics, or other featured soloists.

LINK: The album is available from Charlie Bates' website

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