Guy Barker - The Amadeus Project

Global Mix 2CD02     ****
Guy Barker, Nathan Bray, Tom Rees Roberts, Byron Wallen (t), Baraby Dickinson, Alistair White, Mark Frost (tb), Rosario Giuliani (as), Graeme Blevins (ts, cl, fl), Per ‘Texas’ Johansson (ts, b cl, fl, cl), Phil Todd (bar s, tu, fl, a fl, pic), Jim Watson (p, org, Fen Rh), Phil Donkin (b) and Ralph Salmins (d). Rec. 2007
Guy Barker - The Amadeus Project
It’s a long story, but none of the material on this double album set is based on any compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus. The first CD – ‘dZf’ or Die Zauberflöte – is inspired by a re-imagining of the libretto of The Magic Flute by crime writer Robert Ryan, who has created a fresh story-line set in New York of the 1940s with “apologies to Johnny Staccato.” It is without a doubt the most ambitious – in terms of composing and arranging – of Barker’s previous five albums (six if you count the soundtrack album for The Talented Mr. Ripley) and is by far the most successful.

For a start the leader’s trumpet playing is probably his finest on record, but even that is sometimes overshadowed by writing and arranging that frequently dazzles. The cinematic ‘dZf’, music composed for the big screen in Barker’s mind, is full of allusions to film noir, a consummation of a marriage between the romanticism of David Raksin (Laura) and the street-wise Elmer Bernstein (The Man With The Golden Arm).

There’s also a spice of Herbie Hancock (‘Maiden Voyage’), good time Georgie Fame, Goodman’s ‘Sing Sing Sing,’ Harry James’ trumpet section solis, Bill Russo and the clavé (track 11) that pass in a dizzying blur while Barker’s imaginative use of Per ‘Texas’ Johansson’s bass clarinet on ‘Queen Righteous’ is a delight. It might seem as if all that’s missing are glimpses of the kitchen sink, but these eclectic influences are seamlessly bound up by the sweep of Barker’s imaginative writing.

The second CD is less film noir, more a showcase for Barker’s compositional and arranging prowess, and is inspired by characters from Mozart’s operas. Highlights include ‘In Colin’s Town,’ dedicated to Colin Towns, and the intriguing ‘Cruel Stars and Sighs.’ By any standards an impressive achievement. Stuart Nicholson