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Reviews for 'Leaving For Home'

Jus' Jazz

Jazz by any stretch of the imagination is America's most original art form. The genre is also an institution, ambassador to the world and one of United States' greatest exports. Based upon that premise and the idea of artistic exchange, the artistic community should always expect to receive an import with similar degrees of novelty. With that thought in mind, let me examine the music of a British import by the name of Colin Byrne, one of the finest interpreters of jazz in the United Kingdom.

Colin's latest CD entitled Leaving For Home is his first and he holds the distinction of handcrafting seven dynamic tracks of original compositions without compromising his creative flow of ideas. In addition, he has also included a jazz dimension seldom seen in mainstream America'an amalgamation of big band style with underlying influences of pianist Duke Ellington and bassist Charles Mingus, two of the finest innovators in the history of the United States. Basically, what Colin has done on Leaving For Home is best described as an inherently explosive and spontaneous release. He has done so with strong personal convictions that have been meshed with some intensely colorful compositions. What is just as captivating about this CD are the conceptualized thought processes that went into the album's overall development.

Beginning in February 2005, Colin Byrne decided to form an orchestra that would only play what he described as 'exclusively original jazz music.' Upon reflection the whole idea seemed rather bizarre at the time, due to what many believe can be found in an intensely popular smooth jazz movement that has been proliferating the minds of most artists. What first began as a simple conceptualized idea took immediate flight and was soon fueled by an unanticipated overwhelming response to Colin's music. The enthusiastic response from the general public was rather unexpected to say the least, but no sooner than one could say 'back at cha',' Big Band Byrne became a newly launched jazz activated sound energy ray. From then on, Colin Byrne knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that his style of jazz coupled with some fiercely talented musicians would captivate anyone within earshot of his newly formed sound energy experience.

Leaving For Home was recorded in June 2005; and since that time, Big Band Byrne has been titillating the jazz scene with an impressive array of tracks. On top of that, Colin's chosen array of band members who accompany him on his very original improvisational jaunt through jazz has complemented the CD very nicely. Collectively these strategically placed group of guys do mesh well together and their chemistry is delightful. Front start to finish, Leaving For Home is a passion filled musical delight, a recording that goes the distance towards building a foundation of energized exuberance. This CD is a musical excursion back into time, when bands contained personnel that were allowed to exhibit their talent without the confines of commercial limitations. Both bandleader and sidemen alike played amongst themselves, while weaving a web of intuitive delight. All in all, Leaving For Home captures one's immediate attention without any degree of reservation. Every member of the band has a role to play, from the clarinetist to the bassist and up the ladder to Colin Byrne.

Leaving For Home is an album that reminds true jazz connoisseurs of what the big bang theory was all about during the swing era. This orchestra role-plays with a variety of influences, while highlighting a truly amazing piece of work from the United Kingdom of jazz. Just as the United States has exported jazz as a form of entertainment and artistic expression, Colin Byrne has definitely introduced a European import of the highest caliber. I could go on and on about Leaving For Home; but if I did, it would not be enough to adequately describe a truly phenomenal trek into the realm of Big Band Byrne.

This CD is a highly evolved tribute to the days of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Bunny Berigan, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry and a host of others too numerous to mention. But make no mistake about it; Colin Byrne and big band jazz go together with a breath of fresh air seldom experienced in recent years. As you listen to Leaving For Home, place the album under the letter 'B' for a brilliantly conceived recording that is one of the finest recordings of its kind to date.

Sheldon Nunn. www.jusjazz.com

All About Jazz

Leaving for Home is the bold and brash big band debut from the new Big Band Byrne, Colin Byrne's jazz orchestra from Leeds, United Kingdom. In February 2005 the composer/drummer went on the internet and advertised on Jazz in Leeds to attract musicians interested in playing original music in a new band. The result was the birth of the seventeen-piece Big Band Byrne, which rumbles through original contemporary charts reminiscent of the Ellington and Mingus bands of the past. This album captures a June, 2005 live recording at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, where the sounds of cheers and approval from the crowd lent a special atmosphere to the session.

Don't be deceived by the fact that there are only seven tunes on the set, because they stretch out to an hour and a quarter. Byrne's charts provide a wide range of tempo changes and plenty of solo space for members of the band. Dedicated to his Wild Monday nights with a former love, 'Crazy Monday' begins this set with almost twenty minutes of heat, with sparks from players on baritone and trombone, plus the entire rhythm section.

There are sensational solo performances by tenorist Tony Burkill and trumpeter James Hamilton on one of the best scores here, 'Talking.' Byrne has composed an exciting big band number, engulfed in brass and diced with a passion-filled solo shot by tenor player Rob Mitchell, in the outstanding '1916,' written in memory of the Easter revolt in Dublin, Ireland that marked the formation of the Republic of Ireland. (Byrne was born in Cork City, Ireland.)

The title piece, 'Leaving For Home,' is a powerful, pounding tune with a head-bopping rhythm and scorching solos that bring out the best of the band. Byrne offers a complex and challenging arrangement on 'Time To Remind Me,' which, as he states in the liner notes, is an 'attempt in modal composition.' Rounding out the concert are 'As If Only,' featuring Burkill (on clarinet), followed by 'Demolition Baritone,' showcasing the talents of Sam Thorton (on baritone) in a heavily improvised number dedicated to the free jazz style of today.

Leaving For Home takes one on a nice ride to a destination, connecting new material in one riveting performance. The album is replete with solo journeys from players who represent the top echelons of the British jazz world. Byrne has carved out a unique place of his own with this audacious, fiery recording in the finest big band tradition.

Edward Blanco

Reprinted with permission. Copyright (c) 2006 AllAboutJazz.com and Edward Blanco.


And they say that miracles never happen. In February 2005 the enterprising Cork-born, Leeds based composer, arranger, bandleader and drummer Colin Byrne issued a call to arms on the web. Outlining his plan to create a jazz orchestra whose sole purpose would be to play newly composed jazz music, within a matter of weeks, the Colin Byrne Jazz Orchestra was up and running and, incredibly, had its live debut album in the can by mid-June the same year. Ah yes, I hear you say, but is it any good'

Featuring seven original tunes and clocking in at a whoppingly generous hour and a quarter, the seventeen strong orchestra whips up an absolute storm on the opener, a sprawling fresco of sound, entitled 'Crazy Monday' and from there on it's a white-knuckle ride of burning solos, careering textures and propulsive energy. From the retro filmic quality of 'Talking' to the modal leanings of 'Time To Remind Me', this is a startlingly good debut.

Peter Quinn, Jazzwise

Mainly Big Bands

This CD was recorded in June 2005 at the Brudenhill Social Club in Leeds (UK). As it is a live performance there is little room for too many enhancements to the original recording, so what you hear is an accurate representation of what happened. The recording engineers are to be complimented in capturing the atmosphere generated by this excellent, new (to me) big band.

The arranger Colin Byrne probably counts one of his influences as Thad Jones; an interest with the other Jones appreciator, drummer Tony Faulkner. It is no surprise that the band swings brilliantly in the loose and eloquent style associated with that legendary group.

In the UK, another great band that meandered in that deceptively casual way through well written, exciting arrangements, was the wonderful Stan Tracey Big Band. So understand that these arrangements have a tumbling 'stream of consciousness' air about them and leave plenty of room for this splendid selection of musicians to stretch and remind unbelievers that this country is blessed with some of the finest musicians you will find anywhere.

All the arrangements are original, beautifully crafted; and from the downbeat grab the attention of the listener. A very strong lineup of soloists dig deep to compliment the settings provided by Colin Byrne. Often independent productions like this are spoiled by musicians being too careful, worrying about making mistakes. I doubt whether this entered the heads of any of them. So sit back and enjoy the spontaneity of this dynamic live performance.

John Killoch. www.mainlybigbands.co.uk

All About Jazz

Even though it veers occasionally into choppy waters, this ambitious album by the Colin Byrne Jazz Orchestra starts on an even keel and charts a generally straightahead course before crashing headlong onto the shoals of free jazz. Among comparable ensembles, the one that most immediately came to my mind is the Mingus Big Band, which should give aficionados an idea of Byrne's game plan and mindset.

Byrne, whom I assume is Irish'the orchestra is British-based and was recorded (live) at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds'is a young composer/arranger who respects the big band tradition but has some fresh ideas for the new millennium, most of which fit quite snugly into the time-honored big-band format. Even his stab at free jazz, 'Demolition Baritone,' isn't so 'free' as to abandon musical convention altogether, as there are recognizable (and quite pleasing) melodies complementing the more unrehearsed digressions of baritone saxophonist Sam Thornton and drummer Tony Faulkner.

Despite its uncommon name, the opener, 'Crazy Monday,' is a fairly straightforward anthem whose occasional dissonances aren't in the least unpleasant. Even so, braving its nearly twenty-minute playing time is an exercise in alertness and self-control. One can hear the Mingus influence underscoring extended solos by Thornton, Faulkner, trombonist Andy Hiller, pianist Chris Moore, guitarist Darren Dutson-Bromley and bassist Paul Moore. The fast-paced 'Talking' encompasses earnest solos by Moore, Dutson-Bromley, tenor Tony Burkill and trumpeter Jamie Hamilton, while Byrne's Irish connection is most prominent on '1916,' written to honor the Dublin uprising of Easter 1916 that led to the formation of the Republic of Ireland. The enterprising solos are by Moore, Faulkner, tenor Rob Mitchell and trumpeter Sean Hollis.

'Leaving for Home,' written, says Byrne, while his girlfriend was packing her bags to split, 'is quite a happy tune.' No hard feelings, I suppose. The centerpiece is a lengthy solo by Burkill during which he occasionally strays well over the top, causing one to search for the nearest bottle of aspirin. 'Time to Remind Me' is Byrne's interesting nod toward modal Jazz, 'As If Only' a dynamic theme written for one of Byrne's close friends, clarinetist Alison Sheldon. Hamilton, Moore, Faulkner and trombonist Matt Ball are the soloists on 'Remind Me,' Ball, Hamilton, Burkill (clarinet) and alto Don Donnelley on 'As If Only.'

Byrne's orchestra is impressive, his compositions and arrangements no less so, and Leaving for Home is a splendid album for those who appreciate contemporary big band jazz with a cutting edge.

Jack Bowers

Reprinted with permission. Copyright (c) 2006 AllAboutJazz.com and Jack Bowers.

York Press

Another exciting big band workout is on a new CD from the Leeds-based Colin Byrne Jazz Orchestra, Leaving For Home. 17 talented musicians drawn from a wide catchment include Yorkies Andy Hillier (trombone) and Chris Moore (piano) and the whole machine is driven by the drums of ex-LCM tutor Tony Faulkner.

The opening track, Crazy Monday is a compelling 20 minutes, but the ride is so thrilling who is counting ? Using the full tonal range, through tempo and mood changes a la Ellington, the piece progresses logically with Andy Hillier and Chris Moore supplying two of the best solos on the disc. The saxophone section jousts unaccompanied, with band hand-claps and counterpoint trumpets, before the ensemble comes back for a stirring climax.

So, if you imagined that the big band was a near-extinct behemoth, dinosaur-like, imagine instead a huge, gleaming limousine, a pride of lions, a herd of proud Arab steeds (I say, steady on, Ron). Suffice to say that if you rate the crisp big bands of Buddy Rich and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, with a touch of full-throated Kenton, do not miss this stunning 7-track album.
Ron Burnett, York Press

Chris Parker www.vortexjazz.co.uk

Its members all recruited via an advertisement Colin Byrne placed on the jazzinleeds website, Big Band Byrne exists solely to play original music, and this album was recorded live at the Brudenell Social Club in June 2005. A seventeen-piece outfit, on this outing they address a range of Byrne compositions, mostly straightforward flagwavers with lots of solo space, but some (?Demolition Baritone?) incorporating passages of free-ish improvisation, others (?Time to Remind Me?) experiments with the modal approach.

Whatever they’re playing, though, the band exhibit an infectious enthusiasm both for each other’s playing and for the material Byrne has provided for them, and the resulting album is a joyous celebration of big-band values: tight ensemble work, freewheeling solo features, punchy riff playing, fierce interaction between sections. Pastel shades, complex rhythms, unusual textures are mostly eschewed; this is not a Maria Schneider-type big band, but a thoroughly unpretentious, good-time aggregation of like-minded souls looking to entertain audiences and themselves, and judging by the reaction of the crowd on this recording, they should be experienced live for maximum effect.

Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz

Live Gig Reviews

Jazz In Leeds

The Colin Byrne Jazz Orchestra, North Leeds Jazz Club
Tuesday 11th October 2005
If ever living proof was needed that drummers can be able musicians in more ways than one, then Colin Byrne is that proof. This engaging beater of skins came to the Highwood Hotel to wow the North Leeds Jazz Club with a pad full of his own compelling big-band arrangements. It can sometimes come as a surprise to folk that drummers do other things musical. I recall a drummer on the Leeds' music scene by the name of Nick Ship who could write what were often superlative orchestral arrangements, so it was good to see Colin laying to rest an often mistaken assumption that drummers 'just aren't proper musicians, my dear'

A substantial audience was treated to a broad cross-section of big band music that took in various artistic forms ranging from swing through to funk with a number of variants in between. And I got the impression that Colin's ideas enjoy the incorporation of surprise in that some of the numbers would start quietly or slowly then suddenly change tempo, which certainly kept the audience on its feet, both in terms of paying attention and at the end whilst shouting for more.

There were too many members in the band to recount in full, but special mention should go to Matt Ball (trombone), Jim Corry (alto sax), Steve Salkind (alto sax) and Chris Moore (electric piano) with the trumpet section being a revelation in terms of power and control. When called upon to do so, these guys delivered in a way that had you thinking you were at some big-name venue rather than the Highwood Hotel Concert Room of a Tuesday evening in Leeds 8.

Colin's employment in the role of MD meant he wasn't playing the drums. However, he put this responsible task into the capable and experienced hands of Tony Faulkner who, as is the norm, showed excellent understanding of what was going on around him.

If you'd like to find out more - get along to the North Leeds Jazz Club any Tuesday night for what should amount to a very enjoyable evening of modern jazz.

Shedbuilder, Jazz in Leeds. www.jazzinleeds.co.uk