Hilary Burt's Blue Calluna
The Brunswick, Hove
9th September, 2018
Occasionally you see something new, not Turner Prize new for the sake of new, but in-the-tradition new. Rhythms and harmonies you know and love; movingly, excitingly new. People seemed to know something was coming. The Sunday night jazz slot at The Brunswick on September 9th was rammed – not even standing room.
The draw was Hilary Burt’s launch gig for the songs and arrangements she’s been working on for over a year; for her whole life, some might say. She’d entrusted her creations to her new all-star 8-piece Blue Calluna, plus backing vocals, and they didn’t disappoint. Monday morning Facebook comments said: ‘mesmerised’, ‘unique’, ‘outstanding’, ‘total triumph’.
The songs were a mix of Hilary’s Big Band originals (Sarah’s Hour, Mojo, Golden Animation), now part of the Sussex Jazz Orchestra regular set. Lots more originals: Kestrel, dedicated to Simon D'souza, Ingrid’s Song, Step off and Fly, and gorgeous quirky re-imaginings of Eleanor Rigby (familiar to Trees’ fans), Big Yellow Taxi and Dublin’s Fair City.
So what made it new? First was the quality of the writing: accessible, catchy, lovely melodies, funky grooves. Second, the depth of arrangement. Instead of familiar big band scores and small group minimalist arrangement, when someone puts hours into inter-weaving eight voices into such rich, varied soundscapes, it feels, well… new.
And lots of solo space. Special mention must go to Steve Morgan – now up there with the very best; Beccy Rork – wonderful as ever; Lucy Pickering, joining Red Grey at the top of the spine-tingle league. And Kate Hogg, especially with her Bansuri flute. No, I didn’t know what it was either; find out: it’s the most beautiful thing. And all driven by the drums/percussion/guitar versatility of Alex Eberhard and Chris Stockel, and the ‘main man’ Dave Barnard on bass.
Oh yes: and when did you last see a band where the entire front-line is women and all the blokes are at the back in the engine-room? New or what?
The album Step Off and Fly will be launched at The Brunswick on Sunday Nov 25th.
Hilary Burt, composer, arranger, flute, alto sax; Lucy Pickering, vocals, flute; Beccy Rork, tenor sax, flute; Kate Hogg, alto sax, flute, bansuri flute; Annie Lightly, Collette Murphy and Vikki Parker, backing vocals; Steve Morgan, keyboard; Dave Barnard, bass; Alex Eberhard, drums, guitar, vocals; Chris Stockel, percussion, drums.
(Photo courtesy of Andy Batkin.)