Big Screen is a new trio with an enviable pedigree created with the brief to play music from the movies. The trio is: Matt Skelton on drums, Tom Farmer on bass and David Newton on keyboards.
Equally at home in modern and vintage jazz styles, Skelton enjoys a diverse musical career that also encompasses symphonic and light orchestral music. He is the drummer for the GRAMMY©nominated John Wilson Orchestra.
Ah, yes…the John Wilson Orchestra. Drummer Skelton has a unique connection to film music by virtue of his tenure in the John Wilson Orchestra, an incredible enterprise that honours film music like no other ensemble in the world. Maestro Wilson champions the music of Hollywood in incredible fashion, with long-lost scores being painstakingly transcribed for performance on-stage; much of the music they play has only been heard on-screen. I had the pleasure of witnessing the incredible spectacle of the John Wilson Orchestra playing a concert in Los Angeles recently at the invitation of Seth MacFarlane (a well-known comedic voice-actor, writer and director who also sings great and champions physics!). And while several members of the orchestra confessed to me beforehand that they were afraid that their mission was much akin to ‘bringing coals to Newcastle’, their performance was exhilaratingly great. They brought down the house while receiving a standing ovation from everyone including many of Hollywood’s best musicians who were in the audience. Skelton plays the drums with the JWO – a challenging task and responsibility – and he pulls it off with uncanny aplomb. His work with the Big Screen conveys the same talents for fine ensemble playing, but he does the JWO work one much better by improvising throughout on these trio tunes while still swinging like crazy. Skelton knows the vocabulary of film music and jazz drumming. His playing recalls the great legendary piano trio recordings of music from the movies, with the likes of Ed Thigpen and Shelly Manne. Whether using brushes or sticks, Skelton displays tremendous talent and musicality. He understands the legacy of the music and of his instrument. I can’t think of much higher praise than that. His résumé can speak for itself, but I like a drummer who lets his drumming do the talking.
I had the pleasure of playing with bassist Tom Farmer while he was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. A very busy professional now, he can be found and heard in any number of London jazz venues as well as on recordings. He swings. Highest-possible praise again, particularly when it comes to the bass. Okay, he possesses excellent intonation, too. Farmer’s résumé includes being a member of the multiple award- winning 'Empirical' quartet, and can lay claim to having worked at Ronnie Scott’s fabled jazz club as much as Skelton has. Bass players (or drummers) usually get the shortest paragraph in album liner notes, I don’t know why. Suffice to say, the guy plays great.
Pianist David Newton is, in Skelton’s words, 'one of our nation’s treasured pianists'. The man has a lovely touch; that is for certain. Scottish-born and educated at the Leeds College of Music, Newton’s recording career had begun in 1985 with Buddy de Franco and Martin Taylor and his first solo album was released in 1988. He’s been the accompanist of choice for vocal royalty for years, and it’s easy to hear why: Newton’s musical responsiveness is as impressive as his re-harmonization and arranging skills at the piano. It can be a fine line between clever and stupid when it comes to re-setting musical chestnuts to the jazz format, but Newton bridges that gap by a good mile or more. He’s the kind of pianist every drummer and bass player could wish for. Fittingly, Newton has been voted ‘Best Jazz Pianist’ in the British Jazz Awards for the thirteenth time in 2014 and was made a Fellow of Leeds College of Music in 2003.
'Their combined sense of improvised swing mixed with passion and enjoyment obviously shine through nine big and small screen songs and themes.'more >>MusicWeb International
'...full of elegant and educated playing.'more >>Mojo
'Gratifying, old-school trio jazz arrangements of movie tunes with affectionate nods to the witty, straight-ahead 1950s groups of André Previn and Oscar Peterson among some sensitive contemporary reharmonisation, notably Chariots Of Fire. Dave Newton (piano), Tom Farmer (bass) and Matt Skelton (drums) play with a will to swing that is simply intoxicating.'Jersey Jazz
'The performances of these songs by Big Screen are a joy to hear.'more >>Jazzwise
'This is a classy showing and Linn's high quality production values back it all the way.'more >>The Guardian
'There are some smart reharmonisations... Newton - a pianist with a sublime touch, a rich harmonic imagination and understated power to surprise - is ripplingly graceful on a whispering Chariots of Fire, light-stepping and jubilant (over Skelton's crisp brushwork and Farmer's walk) on Hello Young Lovers and Ole Man River.'more >>London Jazz News
'...this highly professional trio have duly delivered a highly polished album, beautifully recorded...'more >>Soul and Jazz and Funk
'Driving force behind the combo is drummer Matt Skelton...'more >>The Observer
'When it comes to bold originality and delicacy of touch, Newton is unbeatable...You'll be amazed by the transformations that emerge.'more >>