Living in the Fast Lane

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 2 March 2009

The weekend of 21st/22nd February 2009 saw a recording that could well prove a landmark in the world of Tuba performance and composition!

Fodens Band have teamed up with Composer in Residence Andy Scott and fellow composer/saxophonist Barbara Thompson MBE to record a stunning new CD of music written for Tuba.
The CD, which will be released on the SP&S label at the RNCM Festival of Brass in January 2010, and followed by a prestigious London date, features virtuosic performances from James Gourlay, Les Neish, Tubalate & Fodens Band, and comprises five major new works featuring Tuba.

A series of experiences and events led to the February recording, writes Andy Scott;
“In 2001 Barbara & I first collaborated on a project, Barbara being commissioned to write a work for the Apollo Saxophone Quartet (in which I play Tenor Sax) for World Premiere at Brighton Festival. All of us in the ASQ were fans of Barbara’s playing and composing, having grown up listening to Barbara & husband Jon Hiseman’s groundbreaking jazz-rock ensemble, Paraphernalia. In the 1990’s the ASQ would play many European Festival dates where Paraphernalia regularly toured, and the respect and admiration that audiences and promoters alike displayed towards both Barbara and Jon was noted!

The ASQ was delighted that Barbara would write them a new work, and this led to further collaborations, culminating in The Three Quartets album released on the Celestial Harmonies label.

The ASQ also commissioned Barbara to write a Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and String Ensemble, in a collaborative project with the Manchester-based Goldberg Ensemble. It was at an Apollo/Goldberg performance at the RNCM that Barbara was introduced to James Gourlay. Barbara told Jim about her Tuba concerto, Living in the Fast Lane, which was scored for Solo Tuba and Big Band.  Jim subsequently performed Living in the Fast Lane at the RNCM Festival of Brass 2005, and at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival in 2007.

In the last three years or so Barbara & I would compare compositional notes, sending each other scores and recording of our most recent commissioned works. As a self-taught composer being able to receive feedback from an established and respected fellow saxophonist/composer such as Barbara, and more importantly from a trusted friend, was invaluable.

A point was reached where we realised in conversation that we had the makings of a pretty unusual CD of works that we had both written for Tuba. Barbara had heard the stunning playing of both Les Neish and Fodens Band, from a recording of the World Premiere of my Tuba Concerto with Brass Band, Salt of the Earth, RNCM Festival of Brass 2008. Barbara was so impressed with the virtuosity, musicality and warmth of Fodens that she asked if I knew someone that could re-score Living in the Fast Lane for Solo Tuba and Brass Band. The first choice was Jim Fieldhouse. Jim plays in and arranges music for my group SaxAssault, has vast Big Band playing experience and understanding, coupled with his knowledge and understanding of Brass Bands, holding the Solo Euphonium chair with the fabulous Hepworth Band. In October 2008 Jim agreed to undertake the challenge of re-scoring Barbara’s Tuba Concerto from Big Band to Brass Band, specifically for our recording in February 2009!

The two more substantial works on the CD would be Salt of the Earth & Living in the Fast Lane, with Fodens Band and Les & Jim as soloists. Tubalate were approached to record a work called Bite the Bullet, which they commissioned from me. Scored for the two euphoniums and two tubas of Tubalate with the addition of drum kit, Ben Gray, who gave the World Premiere of Bite the Bullet with Tubalate at Warwick & Leamington Festival joined us for the recording.

Along with a piece entitled Going Down that was commissioned from me by the RNCM Wind & Percussion Department, and premiered and dedicated to James Gourlay, we nearly had a CD! (watch Jim perform Going Down on You Tube).
Barbara then offered to write a new work specifically for the CD for the two Tubas of Jim & Les. Featuring a short introduction and coda that are both scored for Brass Band, the bulk of the piece is scored solely for the two Tubas. Barbara has called the piece Double Trouble!

Fodens Band approached the CD label SP&S, who agreed to take on board the project. Barbara & Jon traveled from home in London to a Fodens rehearsal to listen to Jim Fieldhouse’s arrangement for the first time. All worked fine, and two weeks later everyone was at the recording. Fodens, Tubalate, Les & Jim all played magnificently, find out for yourself in January 2010 when the CD is released!
Next time you’re watching television and you come across A Touch of Frost listen out for Barbara’s haunting saxophone playing and title theme!”

Andy Scott     -    1st March 2009

Barbara was born in Oxford and educated at Queen's College, Harley Street, London and the Royal College of Music, where she studied clarinet, piano, flute and composition. Whilst retaining a strong interest in classical music, Barbara was captivated by the jazz work of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane and developed a consuming passion for the saxophone. She formed her own group Paraphernalia in 1977. The band , still touring and recording despite Barbara being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1997, became one of the major instrumental attractions on the European concert scene. Barbara's original and inventive compositions and soaring saxophone and flute improvisations, have earned her international acclaim, while the originality of the music has appealed to a wider audience than merely contemporary jazz buffs.

For any conductor and every audience, Foden’s Band is a musical Magic Carpet. It continually takes the listener to places that few other ensembles rarely even approach Howard Snell