sat 24/06/2017

Jim Rattigan's Pavillon, Seven Arts, Leeds | reviews, news & interviews

Jim Rattigan's Pavillon, Seven Arts, Leeds

Jim Rattigan's Pavillon, Seven Arts, Leeds

Peerless small-scale big band, led by a classically trained horn player

Man with a horn: Jim RattiganEric Richmond

French horn players active in jazz are thin on the ground: there’s the long-deceased John Graas, and composer and polymath Gunther Schuller’s career took in collaborations with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Unlike most brass instruments, the horn’s bell faces backwards, potentially creating balance and coordination problems. Bandleader Stan Kenton tried to solve the problem by using an unwieldy hybrid instrument called the mellophonium; you can hear its piercing roar on his West Side Story album.

Ex-RPO horn player Jim Rattigan solves any balance issues with discreet use of amplification, though it’s noticeable that his sound doesn’t become any less distinct when the microphone isn't positioned right next to him. As a player he’s remarkable: we’re conditioned to expect horn players to excel in long, cantabile lines, but Rattigan’s horn can also grumble, spit, growl and snort. He’s just one-twelfth of his band Pavillon (pictured below, right), currently touring the UK on an Arts Council- funded tour. For which we should be deeply grateful; hearing an on-form 12-piece band punching out two sets of Rattigan’s infectiously entertaining music is a real blast. Leeds’s Seven Arts is an intimate venue, lending Pavillon’s punchy, brassy tuttis a visceral physical impact. Don’t sit too close if you’ve got sensitive ears.

Both sets featured numbers drawn from Rattigan’s back catalogue as well as newly-composed material. Song titles often evoke the composer’s native South East London, though their dark, noir-ish swagger isn’t what you’d normally associate with Brockley. Opener “Timbukthree” featured spectacular work from trumpeter Steve Fishwick and tenor sax Andy Panayi. “Dulwich Park” made wonderful use of Percy Pursglove’s flugelhorn. Rattigan’s numbers alternate between melting ballads and exhilarating brassy stomps – there’s little middle ground. “Rose” featured gorgeous, fat slabs of brassy noise, interrupting pianist Hans Koller’s impeccably loungy noodlings. “Why Ask?”, a delectable, smoochy Latin-tinged number, glowed. “Mung Beans” showcased Martin Speake on baritone sax.

Solos were consistently impressive and never overlong, Rattigan unobtrusively keeping a tight rein on proceedings from stage left. All underpinned by Dave Whitford and Gene Calderazzo on bass and drums respectively, the latter’s unflagging energy a thing to marvel at. What a well-blended sound Pavillon make, the players listening to and responding to one another with palpable care and attention. Different instrumental colours were deployed with dazzling skill, quiet, muted trumpets sparring with a trio of saxophones. Buy this group’s new album Strong Tea if you can’t catch them on tour, and be grateful that harmonically interesting, rhythmically vibrant new music is still being composed.

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