Album Review: Terry Pack’s Trees – Into the Woods

Terry Pack’s Trees

Into The Woods

(New Leaf NL 001)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with ‘Trees’ Big Band it is a contemporary jazz orchestra led by bassist, composer, arranger and orchestrator Terry Pack containing some of the finest jazz musicians from South East England and beyond. Back in 2017 they launched their first album Heart Of Oak as a CD/DVD combination to critical acclaim in the national press. Numbering over forty players the band is also known locally as the ‘The Unfeasibly Big Band’. The source of almost all of their material comes from within the band itself, always giving them a fresh and immediate feel. Sometimes after a highly successful first release it is difficult to match it the second time around. For this band there has been no such problem, if anything the content here is even more vibrant and has an enhanced modernistic feel about it. A band such as this is not looking for the precision of a Basie or Kenton orchestra, but more perhaps in line with a style somewhere between the larger groups led by the likes of Carla Bley or Dave Holland. Having said that, there is a unique quality to the overall sound that is definitely their own, due in part to the number of individual musical voices available, plus the interventions of the harmonising vocalists. There is so much going on during this sixty minute nine piece set that the listener’s attention is always guaranteed due to the ever present inventive flow and changing colour and contours of the music.

This is a recording where the level of composition and performance is equal throughout but everyone who buys this disc will of course find their own particular highlights. Some of my own preferences would include the atmospheric opener Dakar, inspired by the leader’s visit to Senegal and showcasing the soprano saxophone of Beccy Rork alongside Tom Phelan’s keyboards. Immediately following this there is an intriguing piece, the strangely titled No Wind (It Will Get Up Soon) by reed man Greg Maddox that features Kate Hogg on flute and bansuri(a bamboo flute, common in Indian classical music). There is an exotic air about this one, with the understated vocal choir adding to the atmosphere. Muito Obrigado/Seven Sisters is a two-part compilation combining the initial Brazilian influenced opening where the drums and percussion duo of Dave Cottrell and Milo Fell hold sway, and a reprise of a tribute to the chalk cliffs of the Sussex coast, first heard on the 2008 Terry Pack album Palimpsest, but this time with added lyrics and vocal by Imogen Ryall, plus a re-working by the whole band. Mention should also be made of the final two cuts on the disc that, although not segued together, are most definitely linked; Out Of The Blue, featuring an otherwise unaccompanied brass quintet sets the scene for the reflective closer Sea And Sky, highlighting co-composer Tom Phelan’s piano and a superb trumpet solo from Gabriel Garrick.

In summary, this is a very fine album of forward thinking modern music that will enhance any jazz lover’s collection. You can learn more about Terry Pack’s Trees, purchase this recording and more at www.treesensemble.org

Jim Burlong