Django Bates: Three English Scenes; Pond Life; Tentle Morments; Travel Cartoons for the Blind; Candles Still Flicker in Romania’s Dark; City in Euphoria – World in Chaos; Horses in Rain

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Django Bates
LABELS: Argo
WORKS: Three English Scenes; Pond Life; Tentle Morments; Travel Cartoons for the Blind; Candles Still Flicker in Romania’s Dark; City in Euphoria – World in Chaos; Horses in Rain
PERFORMER: Sidsel Endresen (vocals); Human Chain, Smith Quartet, Apollo Saxophone Quartet, London Sinfonietta/Diego Masson
CATALOGUE NO: 452 099-2 DDD
Django Bates – of Loose Tubes fame – is hardly a product of the academy. Indeed, he survived only two weeks of the composition course at the Royal College of Music in London. But neither is his work characterised by the amateurish block scoring or rhythmic monotony so often offered by today’s ‘alternative’ composers.

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The cleverest piece on this disc devoted to his music is ‘My First Scooter’ (No. 1 of Travel Cartoons for the Blind). Scored for four soprano saxophones (the excellent Apollo Saxophone Quartet), it wittily conjures the scene suggested by the title, with its irrepressible high spirits, combined with slightly dubious road sense (melodic swerves, unco-ordinated ensemble and much hooting).

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There are other amusing musical jokes too – in a brief parody of an orchestra tuning up, a trumpeter is heard trying out his Petrushka fanfare – and places where humour is used to make serious points: City in Euphoria – World in Chaos, with its graphically depicted ‘Headless Chickens’, is a sharp comment on the indifference of the financial markets to the affairs of the real world. Human Chain are the adroit performers here, joined on other tracks by members of the ever-reliable London Sinfonietta. An enjoyable and refreshingly original disc.