Some time last June, relaxing in the bar with conductor Stephen Bell after a couple of glorious gigs with the Hallé Orchestra, I mused that it would be great fun to make an orchestral record together one day - he agreed. We left it at that and had another beer.
Fast forward eight months, not only did that spontaneous idea catch hold but against all odds it has become a reality. Last week nearly 100 musicians gathered at St Peter’s in Ancoats, Manchester, to record a collection of brand new arrangements written by Guy Barker, Grant Windsor and Jason Rebello. Listening to a full orchestra plus big band is an almost physical experience in that the sound literally hits you in the face. Recording a full orchestra and big band at one and the same time is an almighty headache, a headache I gladly passed over to trusted engineers Pete, Paul, Mark and young Jack.
Working closely with Guy we put together a list of songs, including well known jazz standards, more contemporary covers and original material which he then began to arrange. Arranging a song in such a way that 100 people can sit down and play together takes great skill, to do that and have your signature sound weaving through it is bordering on genius.
Guy’s writing has the quality and identity of the likes of Billy Strayhorn, Oliver Nelson and Johnny Mandel with a bit of Copeland thrown in for extra orchestral colour. In addition to Guy’s charts it was important for Muddy and I to invite Grant Windsor, our former musical director now living in Australia and world class pianist Jason Rebello to contribute some of their arrangements too. Each has the ability to honour the great jazz orchestral writers of yesteryear whilst at the same time pushing forward with new ideas.
Many more hours were spent working with our crew and the Hallé team creating the ideal layout and what microphones to use for which instrument, you wouldn’t believe the stands that had to be assembled and the miles of cable that had to be laid. The recording truck was like the Starship Enterprise complete with little blue L.E.D. lights on the steps.
Providing we can get it finished in time - Twelve O’Clock Tales will be released this Spring, starting with a celebratory concert with The Hallé at Bridgewater Hall on April 30.