CD review: Jonathan Silk Big Band

Silk Big Band UncouthUncouth (with Percy Pursglove)
(Jonathan Silk)

Jonathan Silk is a Scottish drummer who graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a first class honours degree in 2011 and has most generously decided to make Birmingham his home.

This album, recorded in July 2012, features a whole bunch of other graduates, with trumpeter Percy Pursglove as featured soloist.

The tunes are nearly all by Silk and they are rich with material both for written charts (the arrangements are Silk’s too) and for improvising. The written and spontaneous elements flow into each other beautifully, a testament to the creative nature of both the arrangements and the playing.

Aside from Pursglove, the other excellent soloists include saxophonists Mike Fletcher, and Colin Mills, pianist Andy Bunting, trombonist Kieran McLeod and trumpeter Mike Adlington.

Silk himself controls the whole thing beautifully from behind the drums, giving it a lithe drive, never overbearing, always buoyant.

The album opens with Suite For B.B. – Part II – led in from the drums, punchy and swinging, with some high squeezed trumpet from Pursglove over the head, followed by the foothills of the ensemble, nicely balanced and sounding warm and full segueing into a muscular, peaking solo from Fletcher, with just the right amount of emotional buzz at just the right summits.

Part III follows straight on and again Silk leads it in – it’s like a variation on the preceding Part, with a whole lot of other melody (What is it with drummers and good tunes? They all have so many just dying to come out – perhaps they sing them to themselves while they are looking so deadpan behind other bands…). Another alto player, Chris Maddock, Bunting and Pursglove are the soloists.

Where is Part I you ask? Heaven knows… we’re on to Surely (a ballad with rich sonorities), the 12-minute long J.W.T.S. (anthemic, big and brassy) and something of a suite in itself, with sonorous solo from Colin Mills on bari. Spring (or Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most as we more usually know it), giving space to Nick Jurd on double bass and Tobie Carpenter on guitar, is another showcase for those multi-layered horn charts which seem to go from sea-level to mountain top.

The title track has a climbing motif and cool, West Coast sonorities, which somehow sound both retro-’50s and smack up to the minute at the same time – more great developed horn parts with piano interludes, before the whole thing changes gear, and Percy and tenor man John Fleming build the tension further.

White Mist sounds just like its title, chilly and mysterious, while Closing Time lets us down gently, and features the star soloist at his most intimate.

The whole thing sounds great and was apparently recorded with the entire band together (none of that fancy separate booth stuff) in Adrian Boult Hall, at Birmingham Conservatoire. Hats off to Andrew Mawson for a great engineering and mixing job.

This is a hugely enjoyable album and a real tribute to the talented jazz musicians now plying their tenuous trade in Birmingham – heroes all!

It’s available from www.jonathansilk.co.uk



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  1. Festive 50: from 20 to 11 « thejazzbreakfast
  2. Jonathan Silk – January 2014 « thejazzbreakfast

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