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The Charlie Bates Big Band - Silhouettes Rating: 4 out of 5 Bates’ pieces are rich in terms of colour, texture, contrast and dynamics and their creator is well served by the superb playing of a similarly youthful ensemble.

The Charlie Bates Big Band

“Silhouettes”

(Self Released)

Born in Essex Charlie Bates is a young pianist, composer and arranger who is currently in his fourth and final year of study on the increasingly acclaimed Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire.

He was introduced to jazz by his grandparents and subsequently joined the Essex Youth Jazz Orchestra led by saxophonist Martin Hathaway. He also received one to one tuition from the professional jazz pianist Will Bartlett.

Since moving to Birmingham Bates’ tutors have included Liam Noble, John Turville, Hans Koller, Mike Williams, Percy Pursglove and the late John Taylor.

A keen composer and arranger Bates leads his own quartet and sextet as well as the Big Band heard on this album. He composes original material for all of his groups and has also written for other big bands including the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra. Music from the EP “Changes” by Bates’ quartet featuring alto saxophonist Tom Niblock, bassist Aram Bahmaie and drummer Charlie Johnson can be heard on Bates’ website http://www.charliebatesmusic.com

In June 2016 Bates was awarded the Conservatoire’s Composition Prize for his arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love”, an award adjudicated by no less a jazz luminary than internationally acclaimed saxophonist, composer, arranger and bandleader Tim Garland.

This success encouraged Bates to document his large ensemble writing on disc and in early 2017 he assembled his Big Band at Birmingham Conservatoire for two separate recording sessions. The line up included Percy Pursglove as the featured soloist playing both trumpet and flugelhorn and also incorporated many other musicians whose names will be familiar to Midlands jazz followers. The majority of the players are either current or former students of the Conservatoire and many of them play in the Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra and in the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra. 

For the record the Charlie Bates Big Band lined up as follows;

Charlie Bates – composer & conductor

Percy Pursglove – trumpet & flugelhorn

Elliot Drew – alto & soprano sax, flute

Josh Schofield – alto sax, clarinet

Sam Craig – tenor sax, clarinet, flute

Dan Spirrett – tenor sax, clarinet

Vittorio Mura – baritone sax, bass clarinet

Nick Dewhurst, Alex Astbury, David Tibbitts, Christos Stylianides – trumpets & flugels

Richard Foote, David Sear, Josh Tagg – trombones

David Hamilton – bass trombone (tracks 1,2,3)
Andrew Clennell – bass trombone (tracks 4, 5)

Daniel Kemshell – guitar

Jacky Naylor – piano

Sam Ingvorsen – double bass

Jonathan Silk – drums

Bates has named jazz composers such as Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Hans Koller and Maria Schneider as influences on his writing and the inspiration of these role models is apparent in his music. “Silhouettes” is comprised of five lengthy, highly substantial original compositions that include some sophisticated ensemble arrangements alongside some inspired soloing from featured musician Pursglove and others.

The album commences with “Cyanopsia”, the title apparently meaning “to see everything with a blue tinge” - another way of saying “Kind of Blue” perhaps? Ushered in by Silk’s drums the piece includes some impressive ensemble writing with rich, full horn voicings. Collectively the band make an authentically big sound. More importantly the arrangement imparts considerable swing, something that enables Pursglove to hit the ground running with a lithe and fluent opening trumpet solo. Unfortunately my copy of the album doesn’t include full details of the individual soloists ( I suspect that a booklet may be missing from the package) so I’m not able to identify categorically the impressive saxophone soloist who follows Pursglove  

With its warm hues and lush textures “Almost Gone” features a gentler, more pastoral side of Bates’ writing with piano and woodwind prominent in the arrangement. There’s a warmly rounded trombone solo allied to another wonderfully lucid statement from Pursglove.

Bates’ writing on “High-Rise” has evoked comparisons with the work of Duke Ellington and John Dankworth. Silk’s brushed drums weave their way in and out of the opening theme but the piece soon gathers momentum with the drummer switching to sticks and stoking the fires as the music takes off.  The strident big band playing elicits some bravura trumpet soloing from Pursglove but the piece also embraces an admirable element of light and shade and dynamic contrast.

The titles of the final two pieces suggest that they are thematically linked. “Eyes Shut” begins in brooding, atmospheric fashion with Pursglove’s trumpet and Kemshell’s guitar sidling in and out of the low register reeds and brass. Gradually the music builds momentum with some colourful and sometimes strident ensemble playing with the trumpet section prominent. Drew’s serpentine soprano sax features strongly as it snakes its way through the arrangement.

“Eyes Open” begins in serene fashion with a passage of unaccompanied piano from Naylor. Pursglove subsequently joins in to form a duo before the rest of the band are added. At ten and a half minutes this is the lengthiest track on the album and Bates orchestrates it brilliantly, building and releasing tension throughout the piece and making effective use of colour and contrast. Naylor is featured further with an expansive but lyrical piano solo and Pursglove adds his characteristic fluency as the music ebbs and flows, eventually building towards a rousing big band climax.

“Silhouettes” is a remarkably mature piece of work from a composer and arranger who is still a graduate student. Bates’ pieces are rich in terms of colour, texture, contrast and dynamics and their creator is well served by the superb playing of a similarly youthful ensemble. The choice of Pursglove, a musician with a growing national reputation, as featured soloist also represents an inspired move.  Credit should also be given to recording engineer Luke Morrish-Thomas who fully captures the nuances of Bates’ compositions.

The album is also a credit to the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire and its tutors, including Pursglove and Hans Koller. Indeed Koller has said of Bates “I think he’s doing great things, best writing I’ve heard in a long time”.

“Silhouettes” exhibits enormous promise and on this evidence it’s possible that in the future Bates may become best known as a composer, arranger and big band leader. However the snippets available on his website suggest that his piano playing and small group work is well worth checking out too. One suspects that a busy and productive musical career lies ahead for Charlie Bates.

Silhouettes

The Charlie Bates Big Band

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Silhouettes

Bates’ pieces are rich in terms of colour, texture, contrast and dynamics and their creator is well served by the superb playing of a similarly youthful ensemble.

The Charlie Bates Big Band

“Silhouettes”

(Self Released)

Born in Essex Charlie Bates is a young pianist, composer and arranger who is currently in his fourth and final year of study on the increasingly acclaimed Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire.

He was introduced to jazz by his grandparents and subsequently joined the Essex Youth Jazz Orchestra led by saxophonist Martin Hathaway. He also received one to one tuition from the professional jazz pianist Will Bartlett.

Since moving to Birmingham Bates’ tutors have included Liam Noble, John Turville, Hans Koller, Mike Williams, Percy Pursglove and the late John Taylor.

A keen composer and arranger Bates leads his own quartet and sextet as well as the Big Band heard on this album. He composes original material for all of his groups and has also written for other big bands including the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra. Music from the EP “Changes” by Bates’ quartet featuring alto saxophonist Tom Niblock, bassist Aram Bahmaie and drummer Charlie Johnson can be heard on Bates’ website http://www.charliebatesmusic.com

In June 2016 Bates was awarded the Conservatoire’s Composition Prize for his arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love”, an award adjudicated by no less a jazz luminary than internationally acclaimed saxophonist, composer, arranger and bandleader Tim Garland.

This success encouraged Bates to document his large ensemble writing on disc and in early 2017 he assembled his Big Band at Birmingham Conservatoire for two separate recording sessions. The line up included Percy Pursglove as the featured soloist playing both trumpet and flugelhorn and also incorporated many other musicians whose names will be familiar to Midlands jazz followers. The majority of the players are either current or former students of the Conservatoire and many of them play in the Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra and in the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra. 

For the record the Charlie Bates Big Band lined up as follows;

Charlie Bates – composer & conductor

Percy Pursglove – trumpet & flugelhorn

Elliot Drew – alto & soprano sax, flute

Josh Schofield – alto sax, clarinet

Sam Craig – tenor sax, clarinet, flute

Dan Spirrett – tenor sax, clarinet

Vittorio Mura – baritone sax, bass clarinet

Nick Dewhurst, Alex Astbury, David Tibbitts, Christos Stylianides – trumpets & flugels

Richard Foote, David Sear, Josh Tagg – trombones

David Hamilton – bass trombone (tracks 1,2,3)
Andrew Clennell – bass trombone (tracks 4, 5)

Daniel Kemshell – guitar

Jacky Naylor – piano

Sam Ingvorsen – double bass

Jonathan Silk – drums

Bates has named jazz composers such as Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Hans Koller and Maria Schneider as influences on his writing and the inspiration of these role models is apparent in his music. “Silhouettes” is comprised of five lengthy, highly substantial original compositions that include some sophisticated ensemble arrangements alongside some inspired soloing from featured musician Pursglove and others.

The album commences with “Cyanopsia”, the title apparently meaning “to see everything with a blue tinge” - another way of saying “Kind of Blue” perhaps? Ushered in by Silk’s drums the piece includes some impressive ensemble writing with rich, full horn voicings. Collectively the band make an authentically big sound. More importantly the arrangement imparts considerable swing, something that enables Pursglove to hit the ground running with a lithe and fluent opening trumpet solo. Unfortunately my copy of the album doesn’t include full details of the individual soloists ( I suspect that a booklet may be missing from the package) so I’m not able to identify categorically the impressive saxophone soloist who follows Pursglove  

With its warm hues and lush textures “Almost Gone” features a gentler, more pastoral side of Bates’ writing with piano and woodwind prominent in the arrangement. There’s a warmly rounded trombone solo allied to another wonderfully lucid statement from Pursglove.

Bates’ writing on “High-Rise” has evoked comparisons with the work of Duke Ellington and John Dankworth. Silk’s brushed drums weave their way in and out of the opening theme but the piece soon gathers momentum with the drummer switching to sticks and stoking the fires as the music takes off.  The strident big band playing elicits some bravura trumpet soloing from Pursglove but the piece also embraces an admirable element of light and shade and dynamic contrast.

The titles of the final two pieces suggest that they are thematically linked. “Eyes Shut” begins in brooding, atmospheric fashion with Pursglove’s trumpet and Kemshell’s guitar sidling in and out of the low register reeds and brass. Gradually the music builds momentum with some colourful and sometimes strident ensemble playing with the trumpet section prominent. Drew’s serpentine soprano sax features strongly as it snakes its way through the arrangement.

“Eyes Open” begins in serene fashion with a passage of unaccompanied piano from Naylor. Pursglove subsequently joins in to form a duo before the rest of the band are added. At ten and a half minutes this is the lengthiest track on the album and Bates orchestrates it brilliantly, building and releasing tension throughout the piece and making effective use of colour and contrast. Naylor is featured further with an expansive but lyrical piano solo and Pursglove adds his characteristic fluency as the music ebbs and flows, eventually building towards a rousing big band climax.

“Silhouettes” is a remarkably mature piece of work from a composer and arranger who is still a graduate student. Bates’ pieces are rich in terms of colour, texture, contrast and dynamics and their creator is well served by the superb playing of a similarly youthful ensemble. The choice of Pursglove, a musician with a growing national reputation, as featured soloist also represents an inspired move.  Credit should also be given to recording engineer Luke Morrish-Thomas who fully captures the nuances of Bates’ compositions.

The album is also a credit to the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire and its tutors, including Pursglove and Hans Koller. Indeed Koller has said of Bates “I think he’s doing great things, best writing I’ve heard in a long time”.

“Silhouettes” exhibits enormous promise and on this evidence it’s possible that in the future Bates may become best known as a composer, arranger and big band leader. However the snippets available on his website suggest that his piano playing and small group work is well worth checking out too. One suspects that a busy and productive musical career lies ahead for Charlie Bates.


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