Dreaming Man with Blue Suede Shoes

COMPOSERS: Colin Towns
LABELS: Provocateur
PERFORMER: Colin Towns (cond), Maria Pia DeVito, Norma Winstone (v)
CATALOGUE NO: PVC 1017

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Involving a 49-piece orchestra, a 17-piece jazz ensemble and two singers, composer Colin Towns’s most ambitious recorded project to date is an unalloyed triumph. As anyone who’s heard the latest recordings by trumpeter Guy Barker and tenorman Alan Skidmore (both involved here) will know, Towns is a supremely gifted arranger, and he deploys his forces with imagination and skill.

The symphonic and jazz elements are blended with aplomb and produce music of such drama and subtlety that the uninitiated would never know they come from different traditions. Occasional solos by the likes of Nigel Hitchcock, Peter King and Phil Todd rise so naturally from the orchestral textures surrounding them that the impression is of a single organic whole rather than the ‘jazz plus strings’ feel that frequently bedevils Third Stream projects.

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Towns’s compositions range from evocations of Burra paintings that perfectly capture their characteristic mix of the playful and the macabre, through intimate vocal features, to tone poems inspired by Oriental philosophy. But rich and complex though they are, the overall effect is straightforwardly affirmative. Chris Parker