Reuben Fowler Big Band plus Blue-Eyed Hawk
(The Forge, Camden Town. February 26th 2014. Review by Oliver Weindling).
“Reuben Fowler is a monster” was Evan Parker’s kindly, forthright appraisal of Reuben Fowler after last Wednesday’s concert. The young trumpeter/composer was leading his big band at a concert in celebration of Fowler’s Kenny Wheeler Prize in a performance of Wheeler’s Long Suite from 2005, with the eminent saxophonist as guest. The suite was written for Kenny’s 75th birthday tour, and rarely performed – an exception was the performance by the London Jazz Orchestra in 2010 (reviewed here).
Reuben Fowler had taken advantage of the Wheeler archive deposited at the Royal Academy of Music, to ferret out this and some of his own favourite scores for his Big Band. Immediately on starting one was enveloped by the warmth of the writing. Following The Jigsaw, we were lucky to have Evan Parker reprising his soprano solo on Sea Lady from the classic Music for Large And Small Ensembles. It’s rare to tempt out Parker to read parts, but of course the relationship between Wheeler and Parker has been special and Parker had no trouble in tingling our spines.
Part of the joy of any Wheeler score is its openness in allowing all the band members to express themselves. So we had some great soloing from most of the musicians. There were so many individual moments, the full band line-up is really necessary for full appreciation! But, specifically Robbie Robson, Martin Shaw and Percy Pursglove shared the Kenny Wheeler trumpet/flugelhorn role and managed to be themselves while showing respect to the master; James Gardiner-Bateman took the important part originally conceived for Lee Konitz.
Falling in between Music for Large and Small Ensembles (ECM, 1990) and The Long Waiting (Camjazz, 2012), Long Suite increasingly stands out as the one which got away. Let’s hope that the band records this music soon and makes it known to a wider audience.
While the Kenny Wheeler music took the major part of the concert, also important was Blue-Eyed Hawk, led by Lauren Kinsella, the latest Wheeler Prize winner. I am more impressed every time I hear them, with fellow Chaos Collective members, Alex Roth, Laura Jurd and Corrie Dick creating a unified order. As with Reuben Fowler, these musicians are providing a new take on the approach of the fertile generation of Kenny Wheeler, Evan Parker and their cohorts, especially through their easy balance of free improvisation and arrangements. Meanwhile, Blue-Eyed Hawk is also a bassless band, which frees up the drums. If you can’t catch up with them live, look out for the album later this year.
Reuben Fowler Big Band
Reuben Fowler- Conductor
Evan Parker- Saxophones
Brigitte Beraha (vocals)
Trumpets: Tom Walsh, Louis Dowdeswell, Percy Pursglove, Martin Shaw, Robbie Robson
Saxophones: Sam Mayne, James Gardiner Bateman, Joe Wright, George Crowley, Rob Cope
Trombones: Trevor Mires, Robbie Harvey, Kieran McLeod, Callum Au
Alex Munk (gtr), Matt Robinson (pno), Tom McCredie (bs), Dave Hamblett (dr)