CD Review: Brass Jaw – Branded

Brass Jaw Branded
(Keywork Records KWRCD011, CD Review by Chris Parker)

At the end of Brass Jaw’s previous album, Deal with It!, the band – trumpeter Ryan Quigley, altoist Paul Towndrow, tenorman Konrad Wisniewski, baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin – crack up laughing at a wrong note in the alternate take of Neal Hefti’s ‘Falling in Love All Over Again’, and although the follow-up CD is laughter-free, it is infused with a similarly joyous, freewheeling spirit.

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Like its close relative the saxophone quartet, a band comprising just ‘a cappella horns’ relies for its effect as much on crowd-pleasing swagger, wit and exuberance as on musicianly grace and poise, and Brass Jaw, their coherence clearly springing from long mutual acquaintance in bands such as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, possess all these qualities in abundance. Their material is mostly in-band originals written to show off springy section work as well as blazing solo skills, but a particular highlight is a version of what must be one of the most uplifting album-openers of all time, ‘Peaches en Regalia’, from Frank Zappa’s groundbreaking Hot Rats.

Every little twist and felicitous touch from this evergreen classic is faithfully reproduced in Paul Towndrow’s arrangement, and the controlled vigour with which it is delivered epitomises the power and skill that characterise the rest of a richly varied and absorbing programme. On a personal note, too, the album’s logo solves a little mystery that’s been exercising me for some time: the source of a small but perfectly formed model cow that appeared one day in my post.

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