Powerful end to Snape Proms

The Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra with narrator Michael Brandon: Snape Maltings, August 31Here was a fitting finale to the month long season of Snape Proms held throughout August as trumpeter and composer Guy Barker led his fourteen piece Jazz Orchestra in two powerful sets of contemporary big band music - and as the Maltings audience will testify there is simply nothing like a big band in full cry.

The Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra with narrator Michael Brandon: Snape Maltings, August 31

Here was a fitting finale to the month long season of Snape Proms held throughout August as trumpeter and composer Guy Barker led his fourteen piece Jazz Orchestra in two powerful sets of contemporary big band music - and as the Maltings audience will testify there is simply nothing like a big band in full cry.

The evening was billed as The Amadeus Project with much of the material inspired by Mozart and prompted by characters created by the composer. The principal influences on Guy's stunning compositions lie elsewhere, however - think of bandleaders Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Carla Bley and our own Colin Towns. Guy's position as the foremost British jazz trumpet player of his generation mean that his compositional skills have been underrated but the Snape concert gave him the chance to state his case as one of our very finest writers, too.

The Jazz Orchestra was an international big band of the highest calibre, full of terrific soloists performing carefully crafted music often on unusual instruments. Phil Todd played the tubax - an impossibly heavy looking piece of brass a whole octave below its cousin, the baritone saxophone - whilst Per “Texas” Johansson performed on the contra bass clarinet, creating a sound so deep that the stage resonated. More conventionally, praise too for Ralph Salmins and his tour de force on drums and percussion.


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The Amadeus Project contains “dZf”, a memorable collaboration by Guy with thriller writer Robert Ryan and the American actor Michael Brandon (of Dempsey and Makepeace fame).

The story from Mozart's The Magic Flute was rewritten by Ryan, relocated to New York City and the plot distilled as “a prince looking for a princess - some gangsters get in the way”. The music of the second set was an extraordinary juxtaposition of Guy's compositions and Brandon's narration of this vintage American tale.

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Michael Brandon has a knowing, authoritative voice resonant of his native Brooklyn and was the perfect choice to convey the menace of a gangland confrontation and all the drama of Ryan's short story. It sat effortlessly side by side with some of the most riveting, swinging big band music you might hope to hear.

DONALD MUIR

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