CD REVIEW: The Principal Brass - Debut CD 'New York'
The Principal Brass has been performing as a group since 1983 and their live performances have become legendary. Whether performing an evening of unexpected jazz standards or dancing around the stage as they play, they are simply not your typical classical brass quintet, and we the audience are the luckier for it. It is hard to believe that after thirty years of performing together, this CD is in fact their debut recording!
The material is not exclusively New York-ese however, as the quintet takes listeners to sunny Sevilla in a collection of lovely arrangements from the opera Carmen. In the Carmen Suite each member is featured soloist in his own piece. The prelude to Act Three of Carmen (entitled: Intermezzo on the disc) is a particular standout, with evocative and tender playing by Alan Baer.
A good portion of the disc is dedicated to standards and the quintet really gets a chance to stretch out in a handful of familiar tunes such as Lush Life, Caravan and Take Five.
All tracks on the disc are arranged by veteran composer/arranger Robert Elkjer with the exception of the lovely Air of Manhattan, arranged by its composer Nicola Ferro., and Take Five, arranged by Phillip Meyers.
The difficulty with a lot of "classical-crossover" product is not that the artists are unfamiliar with the material or that they are uncomfortable in the style, but rather that they haven't had the lifetime of learning, living and developing the nuances of the language of the new idiom in which they are working. Obviously, fans of those styles look for that kind of nuance. No such disconnect is present in the Principal Brass. Serious jazz fans may quibble over whether The Brass "swing" enough for some of the material, but that would be splitting hairs in the face of such wonderful playing.
The Principal Brass has performed an annual Christmas Holiday Concert at Lincoln Center's Avery Fischer Hall every year since 1995. If you happen to be in NYC during the holiday season this year, make the time to see it. You won't be disappointed!
For more information, visit www.principalbrass.com.