In the sleeve notes for this CD written by Philip Harper, the text asserts that Tom is “in demand the World over as a soloist, clinician and teacher”. Having seen Tom work as the latter two, I can fully concur. This CD completely proves just why he is in such demand as soloist. The playing throughout is superb.
Track 1 – Fuego was written by Philip Harper for Tom to feature in a ‘Brass in Concert’ programme a few years ago. Translated as ‘fire’, the music is ‘Latin’ in origin and Tom is clearly ‘at home’ in this genre. I always listen to recordings ‘blind’ not having read the programme notes first, and as I listened, I felt I had heard some of it before? The excellent programme notes confirmed that Philip had ‘nodded towards’ pieces that Tom had wowed audiences with previously – The Harry James Trumpet Concerto, Charivari and Tico Tico, and others too perhaps.
If you want to thoroughly test every aspect of a performer, look no further than Derek Bourgeois. Tom has included his Concerto for Cornet and Brass Band, which was written for Tom in 2016. A sad fact about this piece is that it was Derek’s last Concerto he wrote before his passing in 2017. Tom’s playing of this massive piece is a fitting tribute to the composer. It is perhaps the best, in every sense, playing that I have ever heard on a recording. The ‘standard’ three movement construction is followed, but that is where any similarity to others finishes. The soloist cannot have a bar ‘off’, he has to use every bit of his ability, style, technique and anything else you can name, to pull this piece off. He does!
A Brown Bird Singing follows and is simply beautiful. The notes tell us that this solo was the first solo he ever played with Cory nine years ago.
A classic cornet solo taken from the standard repertoire is next in this showcase – The Paragon. Mention is made of Tom’s admiration and inspiration by Jim Shepherd, who made this solo ‘his own’ at Black Dyke. Tom doesn’t make a bad job of it either!
A very ‘French-inspired’ piece follows – Montemarte Jardins sous la Pluie by Tom’s friend, Dan Price. Stylistically, very Debussy and Ravel, very nice to listen to.
Edward Gregson’s Prelude and Capriccio formed part of Tom’s final recital at RNCM before he travelled to South Wales to join Cory a number of years ago. He reprises the work and shows how he graduated with Honours!
For the next track, we go from a well-known composer, to a Norwegian Artist who has painted pictures of Tom on canvas, he has also composed a piece of music for Tom – Images. Tom takes the flugel as his instrument to play this track.
Hejre Kati brings Tom back to the ‘Latin’ style and this is, as is all his playing on this CD, brilliant.
Tom mentions a few cornet ‘stars of the past’ who have inspired him as a performer. A Cory star principal of the past is Jim Davies. Anyone who’ like me’ has been lucky enough to hear Jim’s playing at first hand, will really appreciate just what inspiration Tom takes into the next track - Sonia by Alec Templeton. The piece allows the soloist, as in many other pieces of this age, to really change the flow of the music and play with beautiful lyricism.
Now a very sad and touching tribute to another Cory Legend. Ian Williams, Tom’s immediate predecessor at Cory, was taken from us in 2018 and rocked the banding community. Philip Harper’s arrangement of How Great Thou Art is included by Tom as a tribute to Ian’s memory – simply beautiful.
Tom’s Mum – Jayne, features next. Not as a player, but the reason for Mr Bojangles inclusion on the disc. It is her favourite tune and Tom wanted to pay this musical tribute to her.
The recording is clearly a celebration of Tom’s playing career – so far. What next? The playing surely cannot be bettered, the accompaniment by Cory and Philip Harper is as we have come to expect – purely brilliant. It would be easy to overlook the skill of the musicians that make up Cory just now – they are consistently superb throughout this disc. Philip Harper has shown over the years just how he can bring out the best in those he leads, and Tom has thrived under Phillip’s inspiration.
Engineered well, with great programme notes, great music, a superb soloist – This is the best solo CD I have ever heard. Sorry to the others, but the bar has been raised.
1. Fuego! - Philip Harper
2.- 4. Concerto for Cornet and Brass Band - Derek Bouegeois
5. A Brown Bird Singing - Wood arr: J.T.Dodd
6. The Paragon - E. Sutton
7. Montmartre Jardins Sous La Pluie - Dan Price
8. Prelude and Capriccio - Edward Gregson
9. Images - Kjetil Haaland
10. Hejre Kati - Hubay & Mendez arr: Mark Freeh
11. Sonia - Alex Templeton arr: Denzil Stephens
12. How Great Thou Art - Boberg arr: Philip Harper
13. Mr Bojangles - Jerry Jeff Walker arr: David Griffiths