Big Screen - Take One - MusicWeb International

I sometimes take a bundle of CDs to bed with me. This may sound strange but it's a way of doing a preview listening to albums without necessarily knowing the names of the artists. It's a blindfold test, except that I am not blindfold but lying in bed with my eyes closed listening to albums on my Walkman CD player.

That is how I gave this album its first hearing, and some things puzzled me. I couldn't understand why the pianist's style was so minimal. And I was surprised to hear the drummer getting plenty of solo exposure on the first track. Drummers seldom get many solos unless they lead the band; often you can't hear them at all. As I am a drummer, I regret that drummers are often at the back of the queue when it comes to solos.

All was revealed when I discovered that the CD was by a piano trio called Big Screen, consisting of Matt Skelton, Dave Newton, and Tom Farmer. They seem to specialise in tunes from screen musicals. Drummer Skelton is the leader, so he can suggest the tracks where he wants to be featured. And the pianist is Dave Newton, renowned for his delicate, minimal style, although he can also achieve impressive runs and other examples of dexterity. His mastery of subtlety is evident in Randy Newman's When Somebody Loved Me, which puts the spotlight on his brilliance. Delicacy is also the hallmark of Wouldn't It Be Loverly?, which is taken at an unusually leisurely tempo.

This is one of three songs from the Lerner & Loewe musical My Fair LadyGet Me to the Church on Time swings in relaxed mode - not perhaps as fierily swinging as the classic André Previn/Shelly Manne version. On the Street Where You Live also swings, more modestly, with a beat reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal and Vernel Fournier.

As they are a new group, I suspect they haven't played together very often, let alone rehearsed a great deal, so there are some hiccups, like the uneven bass at the start of Chariots of Fire. It seems almost incredible that this CD was recorded at a friend's house in Eastbourne, as the sound quality is near-perfect, although I was surprised not to hear more of Matt Skelton's drums. Yet he gets a brief moment of glory in Hello Young Lovers and some brushwork in Old Man River. At barely 48 minutes, this album could hardly be called generous but it is nevertheless full of elegant and educated playing.

MusicWeb International
08 August 2015