"A drum roll, and the curtains bid their farewell. The opening titles are traced on the screen, dim gaslights in the warm coffin-like gloom of the cinema, illuminating the cigarette smoke trailing upwards from the audience: hundreds of strangers pressed into an unwonted proximity, all drawn to surrender a couple of hours to the necromancer of film."
Thus began my programme notes for the first performance of Guy Barker's extended and fully orchestrated version of his Sounds in Black and White, a suite exploring the magic of the old movies. Now, of course, we take out a video, or sit in refitted auditoria where the ashtray has been replaced by a holder for a glutton-sized coke. But we all have a memory - even if only a collective one, for some will be too young to have experienced it themselves - of that sense of occasion that the cinema promised in the days before special effects substituted for drama. And Guy Barker's suite, given its second performance on a sweltering night in Brecon, captured that mood perfectly, from the thrilling fanfare of the "Opening Titles", through its introduction of "The Guy" and "The Girl", to the closing "The Chase, the romance and the end".
Guy's septet display ever-increasing confidence and ease in each other's company. The backing from the London Metropolitan Orchestra provides the scenery in front of which his players can act, and what a vivid score he has written for them. "The Guy", performed by Olivier Temime on tenor saxophone, is so memorable a tune that it should become a standard, a melody penned with Cary Grant in mind and to which Temime brought the laid-back swagger of Dexter Gordon, a big-boned disregard for the metre and a big-toned masculinity. The Lauren Bacall-inspired "The Girl", played by Rosario Giuliani on alto, is a vision of a woman who's dressed for the night at any time of day, serpentine, seductive, dangerous and irresistible. All excelled, lifted by Guy's superb material, with the rhythm section coming into their own in "The Chase" featuring a breathtaking solo by drummer Sebastian de Krom, and the leader himself demonstrating his rich trumpet sound in "The Dream".
There were so many moments during this evening when chills raced down the spine, when the listener was possessed by that light-headedness and exultation only experienced in a truly great performance, when you want to stand up, punch the air and shout "yes!". This is jazz, complex but accessible, telling a mesmerising story. And like the best stories, it's one you want to hear again and again. Stunning, exciting, this version of Sounds in Black and White is a masterpiece. Any music company executive who doesn't want to record this needs his head examining.Reuse content