Giles Thornton Jazz Orchestra – Be In Today
(FMR Records CD485-0318. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Having just graduated from Guildhall School within the past few weeks, composer, arranger and conductor Giles Thornton is not short of ambition. Or friends: this crowdfunded debut album features no fewer than 29 musicians (if I’ve added them up correctly), including guitarist Mike Walker and singers Rosie Bullen, Crawford Mack and Liane Carroll. It’s an astonishingly big project from one so young, and if I have one or two reservations, these should not detract from the sheer scale of Thornton’s achievement.
There are clear echoes of Vince Mendoza on Be In Today, but it incorporates a great variety of styles, from the Metheneyesque Just Keep Running to the Joni Mitchell ballad A Case of You. If there’s an overall approach, it’s one of unabashed emotion. Thornton does not set out merely to be clever; his aim, in general, is to create beautiful, melodic music, and that isn’t something one can always take for granted.
The first five tracks form part of a suite, while the last two are stand-alone. Thornton is well-served by his soloists: Just Keep Running, with its long, fluent Sam Knight tenor outing, is punctuated by blasts of brass, which then subside, allowing Mike Walker’s beautiful guitar solo time to build gradually. On Ballad of the Unnoticed, Rachel Kelly’s lovely soprano contribution is followed by one on flugelhorn by Finn Bradley.
Over the Edge is a more experimental piece, whose theme is mental disintegration, and as one might expect, that is reflected in the musical dissonances created by Matt Grenz on tenor sax and Gustavo Clayton Marucci on bass clarinet, over a funked-up rhythm section. There’s another change of style with the pretty, out-of-time piano duo Reflections, in which David Swan and Neil Birse improvise freely on a lead sheet given to them by Thornton. Then it’s back to the Metheny influence with the title track which, like the opener, features the wordless singing of Rosie Bullen.
And so, with the final two tracks, to the (minor) reservations. Romance is another sweet melody, this one in waltz time. However the vocal performances here and on A Case of You could have done with a little more polish.
Be In Today showcases the work of a young musician at the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long and successful journey.
The album is launched tomorrow (4 July) at the Vortex.