Wine Dark Sea – Dan Welcher: Spumante; Donald Grantham: J'ai été au bal; Frank Ticheli: Concerto for Clarinet; John Mackey: Wine Dark Sea (Symphony for Band)

Reviewed on Tue 18 Oct, 2016

J’ai été au bal finds Donald Grantham exploring Cajun music, the dance music delightfully lopsided and friendly, a tuba and a euphonium are given a jazzy workout before the brass contingent beefs things up and the music becomes fantastical.

Seventy minutes of wind-band music includes the album’s title piece, Wine-Dark Sea (the hyphen appears only within the booklet) by John Mackey, a craggy and percussion-augmented piece, harp also – attractive, whimsical, soulful, filmic. It also introduces recorded sound that is rather reverberant and diffusive (turning the volume up considerably obtains more impact, but doubts remain). Dan Welcher’s Spumante, more openly recorded, is an ebullient starter with enticing colours and a ready wit. J’ai été au bal finds Donald Grantham exploring Cajun music, the dance music delightfully lopsided and friendly, a tuba and a euphonium are given a jazzy workout before the brass contingent beefs things up and the music becomes fantastical. The Concerto for Clarinet by Frank Ticheli opens with a crib from Rhapsody in Blue, the solo spots engaged brilliantly by Nathan Williams as the Gershwin side-steps take hold. Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein are remembered too. Superb playing.
–Colin Anderson