Red and Brassy

Artist: Duncan Hopkins

Date of Release: 01/02/2006

Catalogue no: 885

Label: independant/LRM004

Price: £9.99

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Track Listing







Changing Tides




Welcome To Babylon








The Eminent Emigrant




Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them




White Pants, Red Suspenders




On The March








Four Year Old Steps




Sketches of Upper Canada







Duncan Hopkins & the Canadian Staff Band of The Salvation Army. Music for brass band with jazz quartet. This cd masterfully blends modern jazz with the traditional sounds of the brass band without feeling forced or awkward. Recorded live at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada. It contains almost 70 minutes of brand new compositions including a suite commissioned by the Toronto Arts Council.




23/06/2006 By Ian Mann 24dash.com

Duncan Hopkins Quartet - 'Red & Brassy' This album is subtitled "Music for brass band with jazz quartet. Initially I regarded it with some suspicion, thinking, "that sounds awful, it will never work". Except of course it does. Hopkins is an excellent composer and arranger and this turns out to be a very enjoyable album. Hopkins was born in England but moved to Canada as a child settling in St. Catharines, Ontario which by delicious irony just happens to be the hometown of a jazz composer who moved in the opposite direction. The great Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler has been a major figure on the British and European scenes for decades now and indeed Hopkins has dedicated a piece on this album to Wheeler, "The Eminent Emigrant". Hopkins had a classical music education and through his family was also heavily involved with the Salvation Army. It was not until he was eighteen that he took up the double bass and really discovered jazz subsequently studying it at various colleges. One of his tutors was of course the venerable Kenny Wheeler. "Red And Brassy" brings together Hopkins' childhood roots in Salvation Army brass bands with his more recently honed skills in jazz as a performer and composer. The album was recorded at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto in front of a live audience but the applause and the announcements between numbers have been edited out. Such is the quality of Ted Marshall's recording you would never think it was essentially a live album. Hopkins deploys his regular jazz quartet of himself on bass together with pianist Adrean Farrugia, drummer Anthony Michelli and Roy Styffe on alto saxophone. The Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army is directed by bandmaster Kevin Hayward and is 27 musicians strong. Hopkins' compositions are essentially modern jazz big band writing owing something in style to his mentor Wheeler. The bulk of the solos are undertaken by the quartet. Hopkins himself has a broad, woody tone, a big bass sound reminiscent of the Norwegian Arild Andersen. His solos have resonance and authority and his ensemble work is similarly assured. Farrugia is a versatile pianist, thoughtful and introspective on "Perspective" but sparkling elsewhere. Styffe's probing alto swoops and soars and Michelli drives things along combining power with inventiveness and exhibiting a particularly nimble touch on cymbals. The quartet perform two pieces "Mojive" and "Four Year Old Steps" unaccompanied by the brass band. I assume the quartet is Hopkins' regular working group and they are an excellent unit. The role of the CSB is mainly textural with only Steve Brown's plunger mute cornet on "White Pants, Red Suspenders" the only solo coming from their ranks. This is a tune reminiscent of old-fashioned big band swing. British readers are probably wondering what a Salvation Army band are doing playing a tune with a title like that! Stop sniggering at the back, the words mean something completely different the other side of the pond. The CSB also get to play a piece sans jazz quartet. "On The March" is the only really traditional brass band piece on the record. Hopkins' subject matter relates to both personal experiences and aspects of Canadian history. The inspiration behind the writing is comprehensively covered in his excellent album notes. The ambitious suite "Sketches Of Upper Canada" which closes the album is probably the best synthesis of the two musical traditions and includes a quote from the British National Anthem "God Save The Queen". Hopkins has put together an album which is both ambitious and enjoyable. The quality of writing and arranging is very high. It is still essentially a jazz record and as such is more likely appeal to a jazz audience rather than hard-core brass band fans. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to hear Hopkins in other contexts not least with the quartet featured here who are excellent throughout.


14/02/0006 Cindy McLeod ejazznews.com

Duncan Hopkins Quartet with the Canadian Brass Band ‘Red & Brassy’ Independent / 2006 Bassist Duncan Hopkins creates a rare breed with the blend of his mainstream jazz quartet and the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army. The live recording was done during a concert performed a year ago at the Glen Gould Studio in Toronto. Hopkin’s accomplished quartet of Adrean Farrugia (piano), Anthony Michelli (drums), and Roy Styffe (alto sax) meets, shakes hands, and gets down to the business of making rich, textural music with the Canadian Staff Band, who perform flawlessly under the direction of Kevin Hayward. The CD is marked by the strength of Hopkins compositional talent and his facility for arranging. Not to mention he’s a fine player. Raised in the Salvation Army faith, Hopkins' 10 compositions reflect the brass underpinnings of the Salvation Army’s music, and cross-pollinates it with mainstream jazz in a dynamic fusion. Seven of the selections feature large ensemble, with two quartet outings and one band performance making up the nearly 70 minutes of original music. The quartet is a solid jazz voice that melds seamlessly with the brass, providing a colourful palette for the composer’s brush, and carries a sense of classicism burnished into the contemporary sound. From the first track ‘Changing Tides’, one becomes keenly aware of the flexible nature of the instrumentation, with it’s quiet bass/brass intro setting the mood for Styffe’s lyrical alto. Building tension and release with changing time signatures, Hopkins delivers a robust performance and confidently guides the ensemble through this hearty offering. ‘Welcome to Babylon’ is a full orchestral piece based on a sultry Latin feel and woven into a rich musical tapestry. Michelli’s mallets elicit a mystical nature, while Farrugia’s piano burns down like the desert sun. ‘White Pants, Red Suspenders’ takes a Big Band approach to swing blues, with Styffe’s alto deftly moving in and around the melody, and Steve Brown’s muted cornet on the end a delightful addition. Delivered at a brisk swing tempo, ‘Four Year Old Steps’ showcases the quartet members, with each taking articulate solos over the changes. Bassist Hopkins trades 8’s with drummer Michelli, and a touch of Latin puts the finish on the end. The final three tracks, ‘Rebellion’, ‘Allegiances’, and ‘A New Age’, are taken from a project of five movements from ’Sketches of Upper Canada’, which the artist wrote to celebrate the founding settlers of southern Ontario. These tracks are splendid examples of the composer’s ability to integrate the two distinct natures of the music ensembles, with the quartet telling the story as the orchestra frames the message. Duncan Hopkins adds an inspired voice to Canadian jazz composition with his masterful ‘Red & Brassy’, offering a fascinating glimpse into the past, present and future in one invigorating musical breath. For more information visit www.duncanhopkins.com


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