Recent RAM graduate, prizewinning trumpeter/ composer REUBEN FOWLER has recorded a debut CD featuring Tom Harrell, Stan Sulzmann, Jim Hart – and himself, with Guy Barker conducting. It will be released on Edition Records this summer. Reuben explains the background to the project, and how readers/ fans can get involved, via Sponsume fundraising, with TEN different levels of involvement from just £10 upwards
Reuben Fowler Writes:
My first exposure to jazz was through big bands really, I came up playing in the Doncaster Jazz Orchestra and NYJO. However I wasn’t really ‘into’ big bands. Everyone else was listening to a lot of the big band repertoire, and into trying to be fantastic ‘lead’ players…whereas I was always a lot more into jazz and being a soloist- checking out Tom Harrell, Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Wheeler.
I actually copied out all the parts to Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Sophie’ (from Music for Large and Small Ensembles) with my friend Matt Robinson (pianist on my album) so we could play Kenny and John (Taylor)’s parts with the Doncaster band.
I graduated from the Academy last year. When I was at college I wasn’t always massively focussed on the academic thing, and it was really in my last year or so, when I was feeling really disheartened about playing and college, and I was having a bit of hard time (with a girl!) that Nikki Iles really encouraged me and inspired me to get into writing. I started taking some septet arrangements to her as at the time I was really into that sound, and she quickly encouraged me to score some of them up for big band. She was massively inspirational- I was already into Kenny but she showed me all sorts of stuff like Mike Gibbs, Vince Mendoza, Maria Schneider, Gil Evans…to name a few.
When it came to doing my final I ended up putting a big band together to play all the music I’d written, and (somehow) I won the Kenny Wheeler award… I was very surprised as I was in a pretty terrifying year- (Matt Robinson, James Gardiner Bateman, Nadim Teimoori)
So I decided early on that I was going to do it properly and I was going to record my big band music, in the best studio I could find, with the best people possible…which started a bit of an obsession for nearly a year, writing and rewriting all the music- I was very lucky that all my dear friends, and my teachers from the Academy all really liked the music and were up for doing it- having Mike Lovatt, Gordon Campbell and Sam Mayne all leading their sections was a pretty humbling experience. In the writing I try to maintain the small group kind of feel that I love so much, however maintain the scale of a big band- and the compositional element as well.
The Tom Harrell thing came about because he’s been my favourite trumpet player since I was about 15, I was first exposed to his playing by a trumpet teacher playing along to the ‘Tom Harrell Aebersold’. The tunes were really hard but I loved them (I couldn’t read changes at the time!) so my mum bought me the Tom Harrell Transcription Book and his CD ‘Upswing’ to help me out. I ended up just playing along and listening to that CD on repeat! I Still didn’t know how to read chords, but it was great trying to play some of his licks by ear in weekly rehearsals at school. When I was writing the music for the album, I could just hear how I wanted some of the melodies to be played and I could hear his trumpet playing and I just thought why not! So i contacted his wife Angela, sent some samples and they were really up for it.
The same was with Stan Sulzmann really- the first I heard of Kenny Wheeler was Music for Large and Small Ensembles when I was about 16, and the first solo on it is Stan on ‘Part II’. I Was blown away by his sound and the massive melodic thing- how he phrases melodies…I did a gig with him with my band a couple of years ago so when this opportunity came up to record the big band album I immediately started writing a couple of pieces with him in mind.
Jim was the same really- the first gig I ever saw (down at Wakefield Jazz Club) was the New Jazz Couriers with Jim on vibes and immediately decided that Jim was the best vibes player in the world, an opinion that I think has stuck with me until this day. So I was listening to a lot of the metropole stuff, and also to Stan Sulzmann’s Big Band album that have vibes parts…so when I decided I was going to write for that instrument I really wanted Jim to play.
I was very lucky to have won the Kenny Wheeler Award, the Peter Whittingham Award and the Jazz Services Recording Support Scheme, which made it all a reality really. Booked 2 days at Angel Studios with Steve Price, which was by far the best studio I’ve ever been lucky enough to record in. Guy Barker was also really helpful (I’d been in contact with him on and off since I was younger and I’d met and picked his brains as a trumpet player after one of his gigs at Wakefield Jazz) and was in the studio with us to conduct the big band.
I’m in need of help to complete the mixing and mastering so we can turn the rough mixes we have on a hard drive (which i’m already blown away by) into an album.
Reuben Fowler: Trumpet/Flugel/Composer/Arranger
James Gardiner Bateman
Freddie Gavita (Day 1)
Andy Greenwood (Day 2)
Tom Harrell: Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Stan Sulzmann: Soprano Saxophone
Jim Hart: Vibes