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Full Focus

The Tom Green Septet

Champagne Sky

From the album Tipping Point


'Full Focus' is a series where musicians and others discuss a jazz track or tracks in detail. The idea is that you are able to listen to the track that is discussed as you read about it.


Tom Green Septet


I cannot believe that it is five years since trombonist Tom Green and his Septet recorded their album Skyline. Writing about the album that February (click here), I closed by saying: 'By now you will have gathered that I like this recording. It may be early in the year, but for me this has to be one of the most enjoyable, satisfying and outstanding albums of 2015.' Tom wrote a 'Full Focus' article for us about the track Equilibrium at the time (click here), and it is great that he now does the same for the track Champagne Sky from the Septet's latest album, Tipping Point, released on the Spark! label in April, 2020.


Tom Green




Tom Green was the first trombonist to be admitted to post-graduate study at the Royal Academy of Music. He won the 2013 Dankworth prize for Jazz Composition, and Dame Cleo Laine has said of his work: 'Some of the most exciting original new music I have heard for a long time'. His music has been described as 'inspired by writers for large ensemble, thinking in long arcs, and in harmonies which are rich and full. The Septet in his sound world is not so much scaled up small group as scaled down big band, tight, unified ...'. Tom plays with a number of bands apart from his own including the popular Brass Funkeys and the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra.




Tom's Septet remains much the same as for the previous album - Tom Green (trombone/compositions); James Davison (trumpet/flugelhorn); Tommy Andrews (alto/soprano saxophones); Sam Miles (tenor saxophone); Sam James (piano); Misha Mullov-Abbado (double bass) and Scott Chapman (drums), although here Tommy Andrews replaces Matthew Herd who played on Skyline. Tommy toured with the band during the Skyline gigs and you can see him play 'in musical conversation' with Sam Miles in this video of the band playing DIY from that album at The Fleece Jazz Club:





Has it been worth waiting five years for their second album? Oh, yes!

It starts out with the title track, Tipping Point, waltzing along unexpectedly slowly after the drum introduction and with the harmonies strong and with some fine saxophone work amongst the other contributions - click here to listen. The lovely Champagne Sky, which follows, we shall listen to later when Tom writes about it. Kaleidoscope continues to draw us in to this consistently engaging album with some nice interplay between saxophone and trombone, a captivating solo from Misha Mullov-Abbado's bass followed by Tom's trombone leading us back to the theme. Between Now And Never is a clever title for a lovely ballad opened by Sam James' piano and picked up by James Davison - this could well be film soundtrack stuff - and I know a track that I shall play a lot - here is a video of the band recording Between Now And Never.




Seatoller is the longest track at 11.29 minutes It is partly an ensemble piece, partly an interplay between just the front line and then Sam James soloing on piano with the rhythm section when bass and drums return.Jack O'Lantern has a really nice arrangement and is another track you can listen to here. The final track Chorale is an instrumental chorale as the title says with Sam James' piano bridging the ensemble pieces and playing against Misha's bass.

The one track not composed by Tom is his arrangement of Joni Mitchell's My Old Man. I don't need to tell you about that because you can enjoy it in this video of the band recording the number:






Tipping Point album




This is an album for everyone; engaging compositions, great arrangements and talented musicians. It is a shame that the band's tour has been put on hold as they are very worth hearing live - but it will be worth the wait. That is one good reason to buy the album now, the other is summed up in Tom's comments on the music, written before the current Coronavirus epidemic: 'These compositions celebrate the importance of hope and positive action when addressing individual and global challenges. 20% of album sales will be donated to the charities Trees For Life: rewilding the Scottish Highlands by restoring the Caledonian Forest, and Cool Earth: working alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation.'

Click here for details and samples of the album.






And so to Champagne Sky. Tom talks about the background and approach to the music as you listen to the track:


Champagne Sunset



"I wrote this piece while on a composing retreat at Hawkwood College, a beautiful centre in the heart of the Cotswolds which has a fantastic artist residency program, bringing together many people across all disciplines to hide away for a week and work on whatever they want to. It was late November and we enjoyed one of those rare weeks of stunning weather that come around at that time of year – crisp clear days and amazing fiery sunsets over the Stroud valley. It became a ritual for all the artists on the residency to gather on the hill to watch the spectacular sunsets. I wrote this track to celebrate both the natural beauty of the location, and the meeting of like minds that is only possible in a special place like that.


Play Champagne Sky




The tune has two themes: the first is a march-like theme in 4/4 which is initially stated by Sam James at the piano (0.35 in the track) then taken up by trombone and tenor sax. This tune is a simple and hopeful one, celebrating the importance of taking positive action in the face of global and personal challenges – themes that run through the whole album.

The second theme in contrast is a more reflective, rippling melody initially stated by Tommy Andrews on alto in duo with Sam James (1.44 in the track). For this composition I wanted to experiment with a melody that can work with two different underlying rhythmic feels. In this case the melody and chord changes can be written as four bars of 5/8 plus one bar of 4/8 (24 quavers). This can also be felt as 3 bars of 4/4 (also 24 quavers). The manuscript example shows this same melody written in both time signatures. To hear the difference between the two, at 2.00 in the track the melody is stated in the 5/8+4/8 feel by trumpet and trombone, whereas at 2.55 it is stated in the 4/4 feel, moving to the 5/8+4/8 feel at 3.02 when the saxes enter.


Champagne Sky notation


After stating the melody explicitly in these two different feels, I wanted the band to be able to move freely between the two, particularly towards the end of the track as things build. We are so lucky to have Scott Chapman as our drummer, who always seems to be able to grasp anything that I throw at him and really make it his own. The bassline that fits under this melody fits with both feels – the lower notes in the bassline follow the chord changes which are in the 5/8+4/8 pattern, but the way the bassline is accented also fits with the melody in 4/4. Towards the end of the trombone solo, this bassline returns in 4/4 with Sam James at the piano stating staccato crotchets, which continue the 4/4 feel even as Scott at the drums and the rest of the band change feel into 5/8+4/8.

This superposition is something I wanted to experiment with further towards the end of the track where Scott has some time to shine for a short drum solo (6.18). I asked him to start in 5/8+4/8, and I gave him the challenge of ending up in a 4/4 feel by the end of his solo. He does this admirably and at 6.42 he manages to play a groove that is in both feels simultaneously! I love giving musicians a structure to play over like this when they have a solo – in this case some defined start and end points. There are many other places in the album where I use backings or changes in feel in order to push the improvisation of the musicians in some way – they are in control of their own improvisation but within certain parameters which I have set for them. I hope you enjoy listening to the track and that this gives you a deeper insight into what is one of the rhythmically more complex pieces on the album!"


Click here for Tom Green's website.


Tom Green Septet

The Tom Green Septet
L-R: Scott Chapman, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Sam James (seated), James Davidson, Tom Green, Sam Miles and Tommy Andrews


© Sandy Brown Jazz 2020

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Visit some of our other Full Focus pages:

Mezcla - Volta
Zac Gvi - Waltzin' In
Alex Hitchcock Quintet - Hamburg 2010
Dario Napoli - Masks