If you are looking for ësomething completely differentí in brass band recording then you simply must buy this. Eikanger-Bjorsvik is in splendid form in a programme of such variety of concept and styles that the word ëprofessionalí, in the best sense of consistency in skill, flexibility and quality of performance was never more justified. All of the arrangements are by three of Eikangerís ëowní: conductor Reid Gilje, Svein H. Giske and Frode Rydland, and the theme of the CD emanates from the bandís participation in the 2002 Siddis Brass event ñ Norwayís highly popular entertainment contest. In this, each band performs a 25-minute ëown choiceí programme, and Eikangerís entry covers the first seven tracks of this CD.
The aim of reflecting the development of popular music in the USA inspires arrangements ranging from the Negro-spiritual Sometimes I feel Like Motherless Child, through Scott Joplinís The Cascades, the jazzy Black Bottom Stomp (Jelly Roll Morton), George Gershwinís Someone to Watch Over Me, with lovely smooth trombone playing by Grethe Tonheim, Me and My Shadow (Dave Dreyer / Al Jolson), featuring Tormod Flaten and Rolfe Bjorge on euphonium, and Frank Zappaís Holiday in Berlin. The final item in this segment is Pat Methenyís contemporary The Heat of the Day, with its effective rhythms, good sectional dovetailing and bubbling activity.
The American theme continues through a further nine tracks, though there are just a couple of diversions for Freddie Mercuryís humorous Bring Back that Leroy Brown and Love of My Life. The second of these features Siri Smith in some of the loveliest baritone playing imaginable.
Other features soloists are Camilla Sjovold (flugel horn) in a splendid all-round performance of Chuck Mangioneí Children of Sanchez, trombonist Grethe Tonheim, again in Dream a Little Dream of Me (Wilbur Schwandt/Fabian Andree) and Martin Winter, who provides an absolutely stunning display of jazz trumpet virtuosity in Mario Bauzaís Tanga.
For the remaining band numbers there is Too Soon (Robbie Nevil), Tour de Band (Michel Camilo/Juan Tizol /Duke Ellington) and Letter from Home (Pat Metheny). Finally, Samuel Barberís Adagio for Strings. Does it work for a brass band? Well, in of tonal quality, balance, intonation, impeccable ensemble and phrasing, with heart-rending intensity (plus a most acceptable echo in the acoustic), it is a moving experience in its own right.
Leave the CD running for a further 39 seconds after track 16 and you will hear some wonderfully free and inventive flugel horn playing. This is Martin Winter, with A Child is Born ñ and the high note on which he finishes is surely impossible!
Brass Band World ñ February, 2004