Hilary Burt’s Blue Calluna at The Brunswick
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.)