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Tom Syson

Different Coloured Days


by Ian Mann

June 11, 2019


Syson’s playing is flawless throughout and he’s well supported by an excellent band who impress both individually and collectively. Compositionally the album sees him continuing to mature as a writer.

Tom Syson

“Different Coloured Days”

(Self released, TSYSCD02)

Tom Syson – trumpet, Tom Barford – tenor saxophone, David Ferris – piano, Hammond organ
Pete Hutchison – double bass, Jonathan Silk - drums

“Different Coloured Days” is the second album release as a leader from the young trumpeter and composer Tom Syson. It follows his 2017 début, “Green”, which was favourably reviewed on The Jazzmann and which also garnered considerable critical acclaim from the wider jazz community with substantial press coverage and airtime on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Now programme and on Jazz FM.
Jazzmann review here;

Bedford born Syson is a graduate of the Jazz Course at Birmingham Conservatoire and still retains close ties with the UK’s ‘second city’. He still holds the trumpet chair with the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra and has also performed with a number of other large ensembles including NYJO, the European Radio Jazz Orchestra, the London Jazz Orchestra, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra.

Syson has also worked as a sideman in smaller groups, his collaborators including pianist Hans Koller, bassist Arnie Somogyi, saxophonist Alex Garnett and vocalist Jacqui Dankworth.  He has also toured the UK as part of a duo with pianist and composer Mark Pringle, the latter now resident in Berlin but also a Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus.

Ferris, Hutchison and Silk all appeared on “Green”, a sextet recording that also featured the talents of saxophonist Vittorio Mura and guitarist Ben Lee plus the guest vocals of the award winning singer Lauren Kinsella on the song “Raindrops”.

“Different Coloured Days” features a slimmed down quintet line up with Tom Barford, another frequent award winner and a bandleader in his own right, replacing Mura on tenor sax. The programme consists of eight new original compositions from Syson and it was recorded to the highest technical standards at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, with financial support coming from Arts Council England.

The album commences with “At Peace”, which begins with a stunning passage of unaccompanied trumpet playing, a solo passage that includes some startling high register playing but which still makes sense emotionally and within the context of the piece. It’s a remarkable demonstration of Syson’s self confidence and peerless technique, yet it’s far more than a mere technical exercise or ego trip.
Syson’s opening solo cadenza acts as a kind of ‘last post’ and initially the overall mood of the tune is reflective and lyrical, with Ferris delivering a beautiful piano solo in this vein. But this being multi-faceted contemporary jazz played by a young and inventive quintet the music never stays in one place for long and the composition adopts a harder edge in its latter stages, with the leader’s trumpet again coming to the fore and with Silk’s drums prominent in the mix.

Hutchison’s bass introduces “Distraction”, his grooves providing the bedrock for a piece that combines contemporary ideas with more conventional jazz virtues going all the way back to New Orleans. A rousing introductory section featuring just the trio of Syson, Hutchison and Silk gives way to a warm toned tenor solo from Barford, the saxophonist also combining effectively with the leader’s trumpet before stretching out more expansively and energetically.

The title of “Near Death On The A90” presumably refers to a real life event, the kind of near miss, possibly following a ‘nod off’,  that has been the experience of many a musician (and reviewer!) driving home late from a gig in some far flung part of the country. A rousing, urgent intro features the fan-faring of Syson’s trumpet and is followed by a more exploratory and freely structured middle section with the leader’s trumpet again prominent in the arrangement. Next there’s an extended passage featuring the sound of Ferris’ piano and Silk’s drums. At first this is gentle and reflective, with Silk performing the role of colourist, but the music gradually becomes more agitated and urgent, culminating in a skilfully constructed drum solo from Silk followed by a squalling ensemble coda.

Following the agitation of “Near Death” the next piece, “Soon”, pours oil on troubled waters.  This is a genuine ballad featuring a delightful blend of trumpet and saxophone accompanied by lyrical piano and sympatico bass and drums. Hutchison takes the first solo with a richly melodic excursion on double bass followed by Barford on tenor. The saxophonist delivers a solo of great fluency that delivers a considerable emotional impact, and arguably represents his best playing of the set.

Ferris’ piano arpeggios introduce the rolling, fluid grooves of “Purple” which features the supremely eloquent trumpet soloing of Syson as he surfs the undulating polyrhythmic flow, temporarily combining with Barford towards the close.

Ferris’ piano also ushers in “Relief”, his arpeggios underpinning the gentle, airy trumpet melody lines. The mood of the piece is reflective and slightly mournful with the piano playing a central role, before the music eventually takes a more anthemic turn with Syson and Barford combining effectively as Ferris switches to organ to provide an underpinning Hammond swirl.

“A Leisurely Walk Is A Luxury” emerges out of Hutchison’s bass motif (a bearing on the title perhaps?) and the first section features a trio of trumpet, bass and drums with subsequent solos coming from Barford on tenor and Ferris on piano, who both stretch out effectively with fluent, neatly structured statements. Ferris moves to Hammond for a more anthemic section featuring the spiralling, intertwined horns of Syson and Barford before the piece ends as it began with Hutchison at the bass. The overall mood of the piece is relaxed, but moderately vigorous, like the walk of the title.

The album concludes with “Soon Reprise”, a return visit to the earlier ballad that is briefly but beautifully reprised by the duo of Syson and Ferris.

Released in May 2019 “Different Coloured Days” is an excellent follow up to the acclaimed “Green” and this second album has again accrued a considerable amount of critical approval. It’s a more concise album than its predecessor and arguably a little closer to the mainstream but nevertheless it’s an excellent record. Syson’s playing is flawless throughout and he’s well supported by an excellent band who impress both individually and collectively. Compositionally the album sees Syson continuing to mature as a writer and the music is well served by the engineering team of Patrick Phillips, Alex Bonney and Peter Beckmann who together deliver a crystalline mix that ensures that all of the musicians, and particularly the leader, are heard at their best.

I’m sorry to have missed the short series of dates that the Syson group played in support of this album but hope to catch up with the band in the live environment at some point in the near future.

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