The Odyssey of Funk and Popular Music

COMPOSERS: Andrew Lloyd Webber,Notorious BIG,Puccini,the Spice Girls
LABELS: WEA
ALBUM TITLE: Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy
PERFORMER: Lester Bowie, Joseph Gollehon, Ravi Best, Gerald Brazel (t), Vincent Chancey (f horn), Luis Bonilla, Joshua Roseman, Gary Valente (tb), Bob Stewart (tuba), Vinnie Johnson (d),Victor See Yuen (perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23026-2 (import from Warner Music France)

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Original compositions by Puccini, the Spice Girls, Notorious BIG and Andrew Lloyd Webber are all covered on Lester Bowie’s new release. Is the mischievous horn player taking the mickey? Well, yes and no. The tunes make odd bedfellows, but they are all ’ with good reason and the Brass Fantasy’s treatment of them is sublime. The arrangers emphasise the cheesiness of the content, or supply it where it is lacking, and the soloists relish every hook in the melodies. Sounding at times like a demented but expert colliery band, the orchestra tackles each number with a reverential irreverence.

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‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’ starts straight with polished harmonies, then drops into a tango setting before blossoming into a movie style theme with wildly flaring trombones and a blistering trumpet feature from Ravi Best. The Brass Fantasy’s take on Cole Porter’s ‘In the Still of the Night’ is designed to wake the dead, with Bowie snarling and slurring magnificently throughout. ‘Nessun Dorma’ has a slow-burning fuse but, once ignited, canters comically to its conclusion. This is stylish, yet seriously funny, jazz. Garry Booth