The 38th of Jon Turney’s weekly selections is a notable transatlantic collaboration.
Big Air were a brilliant UK-US collaboration featuring trumpeter Chris Batchelor and multi-reeds player Steve Buckley, two of the horn players from Loose Tubes who went on to contribute so much to the UK scene after that incomparable ensemble dispersed. Oren Marshall on tuba, the prolific Myra Melford on piano and powerful US drummer Jim Black completed the line-up.
Their shared delight in looking for the sweet spot between structure and freedom comes across, and this tumbling, stumbling piece with its gradually dissolving tempo, has a wonderful exuberance reminiscent of the Tubes.
The theme leads into a good-humoured bass clarinet solo from Buckley (with some incidental noises off), then Batchelor, Melford and Black lead into a collective improv which preserves the mood, referring back to the melody and eventually allowing all five to coalesce once more. It’s a small tease of an arrangement that pokes affectionate fun at small band polyphony while delighting in its possibilities.