CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Nigel Waddington and the Bigger Pictures Orchestra – Beautiful City

Nigel Waddington and the Bigger Pictures Orchestra – Beautiful City
(Cala Records. CACD77029. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Beautiful City… and beautiful music. Composer and trumpeter Nigel Waddington‘s third CD explores and blends a wide range of idioms, grooves and emotions. His music pays a sort of homage to NYC, where Nigel was a guest conductor and composer there with the Blue Nitrous Big Band in September of 2013. Among the guest soloists with the band were the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove and sometimes Chick Corea saxophonist Steve Wilson. Nigel’s 17-piece band is augmented by a full string section that swims freely throughout. Never obscuring or being obscured by the powerful arsenal of brass, reeds and rhythm at hand.

The playing and recording sound is all top-notch, delivering Waddington’s vision and executing it flawlessly, yet with a blinding verve and excitement.

Highlights for me include Ian Shaw‘s vocal on Staying Alive. He handles this Bee Gees disco classic with aplomb. He perfectly judges the tension between the outer stud and the inner youngster while instinctively drawing on the sultry background textures to create a brilliantly charged performance envisioned by the arranger. Bravo Ian.

Vocalist Vanessa Haynes’ interpretation of Burt Bacharach’s (who celebrates his 90th birthday this year) Walk On By, also scores. Her ability to alter a single note creates her own bittersweet take in depicting a jilted lover’s rueful tale.

Two of Nigel’s refreshing and technically challenging originals complete the CD. Step Away From The Vehicle pays tribute to 1970s TV scoring by the likes of John Cavacas, Tom Scott and JJ Johnson, among so many others. As the composer writes: “I added big band, strings, harp and a long guitar feature (played by legendary studio ace Mitch Dalton) to recreate music of the sort that hooked me during my teens when watching such TV crimebusters like Kojak or Starsky and Hutch.

Finally, Carnaval de Toledo conveys the heat and mystery of this Iberian city. The competing passages of dark tension and release with sections duelling in an increasingly complex a capella interlace multiple lines against flamenco-style palmas claras. Trevor Mires‘ brief but passionate trombone solo at the coda leads effectively to a darkly Iberian conclusion.

Waddington’s exciting and impressive ensemble and music on Beautiful City can well confirm that the state of big band music is in good hands as well as moving forward.

LINK: Beautiful City at Cala Records

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