The band appeared at the Notre Dame Hall in May and turned out to be a 26-piece oufit, boasting French-horns, a tuba and Tristan Fry, ‘Stockhausen’s favourite percussionist’, to quote Bobby Lamb. Full personnel: Greg Bowen, Derek Watkins, Johnny McLevy, Stan Reynolds, Ronnie Hughes, Kenny Wheeler (tpt); Cliff Hardie, Keith Christie, Jim Wilson, Bobby Lamb, Ray Premru, Jack Thirlwall (tbn); Ronnie Chamberlain, Alan Branscombe, Duncan Lamont, Jimmy Philip, Ken Dryden (reeds); Nick Busch, Colin Horton, John Pigneguy, Tony Lucas (Fr-h); John Jenkins (tuba); Steve Gray (pno); Arthur Watts (bs); Terry Jenkins (dm); Tristan Fry (perc).
From the line-up I expected a Gil Evans sound, but as it turned out, it reminded me of one of those slick, highly professional bands one hears on the soundtracks of so many American T.V. programmes. What a shame that this band’s arrangements didn’t come up to the standard of those TV-ophiles, Quincy Jones and Oliver Nelson.
Lacking a strong soloist (Kenny Wheeler apart), Premru and Lamb obviously aimed at a strong ensemble sound, which they undoubtedly achieved. In fact, on the up-tempo numbers the band was a little too loud, and the timbre became harsh. The ballads were more subtle, but I’m afraid that if you substitute ‘boring’ for ‘subtle’ you’re closer to where the band was at.
In all honesty I found this short review difficult to write, for I hate knocking musicians who have put their heart and soul into a project and enjoyed every minute of it. However, the music made little impression on me apart from bringing on a fit of yawning I found it hard to shake off, but in all fairness I must admit to being in the minority, for the non-hip looking audience seemed to love it; and if the customers were satisfied what more should I say?