Tom Green Septet – Tipping Point
(Spark 008. CD Review by Peter Jones)
In the five years since his impressive debut Skyline, trombonist Tom Green has stuck to his winning formula. There has been only one change to the Septet’s personnel, Tommy Andrews replacing Matthew Herd on alto saxophone. Even the Sam Barley-designed CD sleeve is almost identical to the one he did for Skyline, except that this time the figure of the child flying a kite has been lifted into the air along with it. The image metaphorically reflects the title – Tipping Point, a term familiar to anyone concerned about climate change, as environmentalist Tom Green most certainly is.
But there’s no gloom on the musical horizon. In fact, there’s a breezy outdoor freshness to this music, as well as a level of complexity to the arrangements one would normally associate with a larger ensemble. So it’s not surprising that the Septet sounds like a chamber version of the Patchwork Orchestra, of which Tom Green is a member. Trumpet player James Davison, bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado and drummer Scott Chapman also belong to both groups.
There’s an optimistic, youthful energy here, as on Kaleidoscope, to which Green contributes an energetic solo. Between Now and Never, which follows, is a stately mini-suite, with lovely piano from Sam James and trumpet from James Davison. Just as you think it’s over, there’s a gorgeous passage featuring just the horns, with Davison taking the melody, after which Sam James finishes things off with a rippling coda. Seatoller, another complex piece that develops in stages, is based on interplay between rhythm section and the horns.
There was just one non-original (Skylark) on Skyline, and so it is here – a quick rendition of Joni Mitchell’s My Old Man. On Jack O’Lantern, the horn lines interweave and seem to chase each other much like the will-o’-the-wisps of the tune’s title, and Sam Miles gets his chance to solo on the tenor. The closer Chorale begins with ecclesiastical cadences before veering off into something less predictable, and there’s more from the four horns as an ensemble within an ensemble.
The best albums are those which don’t fully reveal themselves until you’ve listened several times. Tipping Point sounds like one of those. I’ll enjoy getting better acquainted.