Thoughts from Venice

Terry Pack uses a rare moment of peace to reflect on the development of Trees since its inception on early 2015.

•Reflections.

Sitting on a balcony in Venice in August 2016, I'm able to reflect on the progress of Trees, an unfeasibly large ensemble that was born in April 2015.

•First rehearsals.

On Monday 20th April last year, I invited a group of friends, including Geoff Simkins, Linda Atkinson, Tarik Mecci, David Beebee, Mark Bassey, Brendan Kelly, Raul D'Oliveira, Will Gardner, Dave Cottrell, Tristan Banks, to The Verdict in Brighton to play two arrangements. These were 'Holywell' an adaptation of two old pieces of mine ('What Happens Now' and 'Over The Hills') mashed together, and the traditional folk song 'Scarborough Fair'.  I had written both for a more or less standard big band, plus extra flutes and clarinets. A second rehearsal took place the following day, and a third on the Tuesday evening. Between these, I made a significant number of amendments to the two pieces.

A straw poll of people's availability led to my booking The Verdict for rehearsals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few weeks, before settling on Mondays at 13:00 each week. 

•A core band emerges.

Gradually, a lineup coalesced around a core of regulars that included saxophonists Charlotte Glasson, Kate Hogg, Philippe Guyard, Andy Pickett and Beccy Rork, trumpeters Jack Kendon and Gabriel Garrick, trombonists Paul Nieman, Tim Wade and Will Rumfitt, pianists Alice Hawkes and Tom Phelan, drummers Ollie Boorman, Matt Hobson and Milo Fell and bassist Eddie Myer. 

As time went by, we were joined by flautists Mike Guest, Hilary Burt, Lucy Pickering and Greg Maddocks, vocalists Annie Lightly, Imogen Ryall, Red Gray, Heather Camille, Vikki Parker and Antony Durrant, saxophonists Jo Luckman, Claire Western, Chantelle Rizan and John Stiles, trumpeters Steve Lawless, Martin Bradley, Jane Stimpson and Moshe Ibelo, French hornist Jonathan Harwood, trombonist Peter Thompson, clarinettist Merlin Shepherd, percussionist Boykie Moore and various comers and goers.

Since my initial aim was just to get the music played, I was open to any musician I liked as a person being part of the project. This has meant writing and rewriting the music to suit the lineup as it has evolved, adding parts for various instruments and voices along the way; a process I have enjoyed greatly. 

After a handful of get togethers, Charlotte and Jack each suggested gigs that we could play. Jack offered a slot at The Brighton Lantern Festival in September, and Charlotte then proposed doing a set at the Brighton Open Air Theatre on 3rd August, which was only a few weeks away. I bit the bullet and said yes to both. 

•First gigs.

•Brighton Open Air Theatre on Sunday 3rd August was Trees debut gig. It was a beautiful day, and we played really well to a crowd of about 300 people, despite my failures to cue a number of sections. 

The Lantern Fayre in September was cancelled, which meant that our next outing was at •The Brunswick in Hove in October. This was a fundraiser for the charity The House That Zac Built, and was well attended and well received. 

The Verdict was the venue for a Bonsai version of Trees: a mere 22 of us played another fundraising gig in November by way of saying thanks to the venue for the many rehearsals we had done there.

•Recording.

Over the weekend of 12th and 13th December, we rehearsed and recorded four pieces at Hawthbush Farm in Sussex. These were 'El Pueblo', 'Scarborough Fair', 'Heart of Oak' and 'Holywell'. The audio was recorded by Neil Costello, an old friend from ICC Studio in Eastbourne, and the video by Joe Edwards, the very talented son of my band mate from The Cloggz, Mark Edwards.

The band was: 

Eddie Myer: bass

Tristan Banks: drums

Milo Fell: percussion

Alice Hawkes: piano

Mark Edwards: keys

Neil Corin: accordion and keys

James Osler: guitar

Peter Thompson: bass trombone

Will Rumfitt: trombone

Tarik Mecci: trombone

Paul Nieman: trombone

Steve Lawless: flugelhorn 

Jane Stimpson: trumpet and flugelhorn 

Jack Kendon: trumpet and flugelhorn 

Gabriel Garrick: trumpet flugelhorn 

Julian Nicholas: alto clarinet and tenor saxophone

Paul Stuart Briggs: tenor saxophone

Andy Pickett: tenor saxophone

Philippe Guyard: tenor saxophone

Chantelle Rizan: alto saxophone

Linda Atkinson: alto saxophone

Kate Hogg: alto saxophone and bansuri

Beccy Rork: soprano saxophone 

Charlotte Glasson: soprano saxophone 

Merlin Shepherd: clarinet

Greg Maddocks: alto flute

Mike Guest: flute

Hilary Burt: flute

Lucy Pickering: flute

Antony Durrant: baritone voice

Heather Camille: alto voice

Annie Lightly: alto voice

Elaine Crouch: alto voice

Imogen Ryall: alto voice 

Rachel Munro: mezzo soprano voice

Red Gray: soprano voice

My lovely wife, Stefania Lanza, provided the food and drink, and I waved my arms about until the music stopped.

•2016.

Rehearsals continued at The Verdict on Mondays and we added a fortnightly rehearsal every other Thursday, allowing more people to attend regularly. I started writing writing a series of new pieces, and added parts for strings to existing arrangements. We were back at The Brunswick on 7th January for another fundraiser.

•Talking Trees.

Mike Guest recorded the first of a series of video interviews with members of the group in which each spoke about what it means to be a Tree. These can be seen on Trees' YouTube channel. 

Steve Lawless, Elaine Crouch, Greg Maddocks and I began having monthly meetings to discuss how best to progress. 

•New music.

In January, I introduced a challenging new piece, 'The Ridge', to rehearsals, and during the Spring, Hilary Burt brought three tunes, 'Simeon', 'Baka' and 'The Story So Far' to the band. Greg Maddocks contributed 'No Wind', a piece which is still in gestation.

•Brighton Festival 2016.

Trees and The Cloggz performed a double bill at Wagner Hall, Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival. The bands played a set each before joining forces to play a new arrangement of Ennio Morricone's 'Gabriel's Oboe'.

• Trees on YouTube.

In addition to Mike Guest's interviews: Talking Trees, there are the results of December's recording session to see and listen to:

'El Pueblo' is an adaptation of a tune I've recorded twice before in different guises; on the  Full Circle album 'Underbelly' and on my own album 'Palimpsest'. Trees' version features solos by Eddie Myer on bass, Tristan Banks and Milo Fell on kit and percussion, Julian Nicholas on tenor and Jack Kendon on trumpet.

'Scarborough Fair' features solos from Gabriel Garrick and Jack Kendon on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tristan and Milo, and Charlotte Glasson on soprano.

'Heart of Oak' features the brass, with solos from Alice Hawkes on piano, Gabriel Garrick on trumpet, and Milo and Tristan duetting on percussion and kit. 

•More new music.

Along with continuing work on 'The Ridge', the band has been rehearsing three more new pieces of mine: 'Praça XV', 'Tarantella' and 'Cuckmere to Friston'. I have two more waiting to be introduced: 'Palimpsest' and 'S/Pulse'.

•Brighton Open Air Theatre.

On Sunday 5th June 2016, we returned to BOAT. We were joined by several members of Straight No Chaser, with whom we shared the bill, expanding Trees to 42 players and singers.

•A Love Supreme Festival.

On Sunday 3rd July 2016, 34 Trees played a set to an appreciative crowd at A Love Supreme Festival.

•A year on.

Trees played its 8th gig at The Brunswick in Hove on Sunday 7th August, almost a year exactly since its debut gig at BOAT.

•Upcoming events in 2016.

The recording of 'Heart of Oak' will shortly be uploaded to the Trees YouTube channel.

Trees at The Big Green Cardigan Festival at Cripps Corner, near Battle on Sunday 11th September.

Trees at All Saints Church, Hove on Wednesday 21st September.

More recording is planned for the Autumn.

Plans are in train for a collaboration with the music department at Chichester College, involving workshops, rehearsal and a concert featuring students at the college.

2017.

Trees at Steyning Jazz Club at The Steyning Centre, Steyning, Friday 6th January 2017.

Trees at The South Coast Jazz Festival at The Ropetackle Centre, Shoreham, Sunday 29th January 2017.

 

 

Trees at Love Supreme reviewed by Jazz Views.

Thanks to Jim Burlong and Jazz Views for this review of Trees at Love Supreme Festival in Sussex earlier this month:

"Brighton bass man and composer Terry Pack is the leader and inventor of the great new contemporary big band Trees. His ethos is to write a part for any one who can play, from college students to established musicians. This forward thinking policy has led on some occasions to over forty players taking to the stage and it's surrounding areas. For the festival a population of thirty four were mostly crammed on the bandstand with trumpets and trombones making do on the grass in front. Although the leader provides most of the bands book, including an updated version of "El Pueblo Nuevo" lifted from his highly rated small group album "Palimpest" and now appearing to be the band's anthem, there are many writing contributions from other members. Lot's of things  set this band aside from and above others, none more so than the superb four person wordless vocal choir that add a dynamic addition to the overall sound. This group of trees certainly do deserve a preservation order as we expectantly await their first album."

Here's a link to the entire review including an overview of the festival by Julian Nicholas.

http://www.jazzviews.net/sunday--the-love-supreme-festival.html

 

 

Terry Pack's Desert Island Discs.

Recently at a Trees gathering, conversation turned to the different ways we listened to music when we were growing up and how much loved recordings from our youth informed our adult musical taste. Here is a selection of albums that Terry has chosen as influential:

Please Please Me and A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles

I was born in 1958, and the first music I was aware of was by The Beatles. I loved all of their records, but Please Please Me has stayed with me because of the pedal point in the harmony, played on the guitars in the intro and then sung in the verses, and A Hard Day's Night because of the wonderful guitar chord at the beginning (the source of much debate ever since) and the brilliant modulations in the bridge. The Beatles early sound was so wonderful, with great harmonies and fantastic use of guitars, bass, drums and harmonica. Paul McCartney was and still is one of my favourite bass players. Recorded by George Martin at Abbey Road.

Up The Ladder To The Roof and Nathan Jones - The Supremes

I was nuts about Tamla Motown and loved everything I heard by Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. After Diana Ross left The Supremes to go solo, the new trio recorded even better songs than they had before, and these are two of them. Beautiful songs, great vocals, amazing playing by The Funk Brothers and great production. The bass, played by James Jamerson, another great favourite of mine, was even given its own track, so important was it to the sound and groove.

Pictures At An Exhibition - Mussorgsky, Ravel and Emerson, Lake and Palmer

The first 'serious' music I came to know well, thanks to Peter Watcyn-Jones, my music teacher at St Richards in Bexhill. Peter played us ELP's live version, recorded at Newcastle City Hall on my fifteenth birthday, soon after it was released in in 1973, and I loved everything about it. I had been singing and playing bass for about a year, and was beginning to think of myself as a potential musician. Peter then played us both Mussorgsky's piano version and Ravel's orchestration. It was the first time I had heard how a piece of music can be treated in so many different ways, and was an inspiration. Many years later, I got to know Keith Emerson, now sadly departed, and told him how important this recording was to me.

Made In Japan - by Deep Purple

Another great live recording, which I first heard in 1974. I became a Deep Purple fan, and learned to play and sing all the songs from the band's first six albums. I loved the sound, the playing and the energy, particularly that of drummer Ian Paice and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. It all seems a bit shallow now, but it appealed to the adolescent me.

Genesis Live - Genesis

Another live album, introduced to me by Phil Thornton, with whom I became friends in 1974. Id never heard anything like Genesis, and loved the use of 12 string guitars, bass pedals and the Mellotron. I also loved the compound time signatures and the overall sound. Years later, I made an album with Steve Hackett, the guitarist on this album, and told him that I preferred his playing on Genesis Live than on his 1980s stuff. He agreed!

The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd

I was 15 when this was released. It was my first Pink Floyd album. I loved everything about it: the songs, the vocals, the playing, the sound effects, the posters, which stayed on my bedroom wall until the fell off! I once travelled from Bexhill by train and tube to Wembley Empire Pool on a cold October night in 1973 to hear Dark Side live. I had no ticket and very little money in my pocket, so that both journeys went unpaid for, and I got a ticket from a tout for £5. When I told my friends, nobody wanted to believe me. I bought all the Floyd albums before Dark Side, but only 'Wish You Were Here' after. My favourite is 'Meddle'. I have since got to know Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason, and even met Ron Geesin, the 'Pict' on 'Umma Gumma'.

In The Court Of The Crimson King - King Crimson

I came to this a bit late, via ELP, but loved it. Pete Sinfield's lyrics, Mike Giles' drumming and Robert Fripp's guitar playing and use of the Mellotron. Wonderful. I bought all of Crimson's albums until Bill Bruford left the band in about 1976. I even formed a band called 'Red'!

Fragile and Yessongs - Yes

Also thanks to Phil Thornton. I bought his copy of 'Fragile' and played it to death. I loved the whole thing: the glacial vocal harmonies, Steve Howe's guitar playing, Rick Wakeman's use of piano, Hammond organ, Moog and Mellotron, Bill Buford's crisp, tight drumming and Chris Squire's amazing sound and playing. I bought a Rickenbacker bass and began writing songs greatly influenced by Yes and King Crimson. The opening of the live recording, 'Yessongs', was 'The Firebird' by Stravinsky.

The Firebird and The Rite Of Spring - Stravinsky

After hearing 'The Firebird' on 'Yessongs', I bought a recording of it conducted by Lorin Maazel and fell in love with it. I later bought a Stravinsky box set, including 'The Rite of Spring' conducted by Stravinsky himself, and have since bought several more versions. Amazing music.

Talking Book, Inner visions and Fullingness' First Finale - Stevie Wonder

For teenage fans of Rock music, and especially Prog, it wasn't at all 'cool' to like Stevie Wonder, but I didn't care about that. I played the albums to death between 1973 and 1976. The songs are wonderful, the playing fantastic and Stevie's singing is peerless. After joining The Enid in 1976, and becoming great friends with drummer Dave Storey, who shared my love of John Coltrane and Stevie Wonder, we agreed that there wasn't any real point in attempting to play with anyone who didn't like these two titans of modern music. Our enthusiasm was not shared by anyone else in the band, though Steve Stewart did like Bob Fripp of King Crimson and Jan Ackerman from Focus, so that he, Dave and I used to entertain ourselves by playing 'Larks Tongues in Aspic', '21st Century Schizoid Man', 'Sylvia' and 'Hocus Pocus' when unsupervised!

Octopus - Gentle Giant

I discovered Gentle Giant in 1975 and loved them. Great writing, mostly by keyboardist Kerry Minnear, fantastic musicianship and great vocals. I bought all of their albums until 'Free Hand'. When I sold 90% of my record collection in 1979, including nearly all of the rock albums, I kept the albums by Gentle Giant.

J S Bach: Six Suites for Violoncello - Edgar Meyer

I have many recordings of the 'Cello Suites', and those by Paul Tortelllier and Heinrich Schiff are my favourites by cellists, but my favourite of all if the recording made a few years ago by Edgar Meyer. Edgar plays three of the suites on the double bass. I have been studying these pieces on both electric and acoustic bass since I was 16, so I know just how difficult they are to play. Edgar makes them sound easy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Pack talks about the albums that shaped his approach to music.

Bandleader, bassist and composer Terry Pack talks about the albums that shaped his approach to music both in his playing and in composition.

Kind of Blue - Miles Davis

My introduction to Miles Davis, Cannonball, Jimmy Cobb and Bill Evans (I had heard PC on Coltrane's Blue Train a few weeks earlier and was already a big fan). I love the simplicity and elegance of the playing, writing and arranging on this album. The three horns sound so beautiful together, and the playing is wonderful throughout. The sound of the recording is perfect.

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

I first heard this when I was 15, and it was the first Coltrane album I heard, because it was recommended by the owner of the record shop I worked in on Saturday mornings. I love the way in which improvisation and composition co-exist throughout. A Love Supreme is in four parts, each of which is a powerful statement whose theme is part 'written' and part improvised, with each member of the quartet adding his own voice to the whole. This is an approach I have tried to emulate. I was intrigued by McCoy's use of 4ths and 5ths, and this has been a big part of my approach as a writer and arranger.  I also love the sound of this record, captured by Rudy Van Gelder, it has a beautiful, natural acoustic.

Africa / Brass - John Coltrane

This is the closest Trane came to a big band album, on which his classic quartet is augmented by a brass section arranged by Eric Dolphy. It is composed of three pieces, and it is the title track 'Africa' that has influenced me most. The interaction between the rhythm section and the brass is wonderful. Again, the sound is wonderful, another Van Gelder recording.

Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles and Speak Like a Child - Herbie Hancock

The title track of Maiden Voyage has 'haunted' me since I first heard it more than 40 years ago. Again, it's very simple, but has great depth. All Van Gelder recordings. Herbie's use of suspended chords has influenced my writing and arranging greatly, and I love the sound of the trombone and alto flute on Speak Like a Child.

The Blues and the Abstract Truth - Oliver Nelson

It was title and the album cover that attracted me to this album, and the fact that it was on Impulse, Coltrane's label. It's the tune 'Stolen Moments' that has remained with me, particularly for its harmonies, voicings and use of dynamics.

Night Passage and Weather Report - Weather Report

These albums have become indistinguishable in my memory. The energy and collective approach of this line up (Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Peter Erskine and Bobby Thomas) was astonishing. It took me a long time to 'get' Weather Report, but when I did, I was hooked. I love Joe's use of electric and electronic keyboards.

Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond - Mahavishnu Orchestra

The first album features the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tillson Thomas, and has an epic quality to it. The writing and arranging is wonderful, and the group and orchestra work beautifully together. I loved this lineup of Mahavishnu: John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Gayle Moran, Ralphe Armstrong (aged 17!) and Narada Michael Walden (19!). The sound, recorded by Ken Scott, is wonderful. The second album features the same core band, plus a string quartet and a horn section. Again, the sound and approach has stayed with me.

Mingus - Joni Mitchell

The coming together of so many great musicians, combined with Mingus' writing, had me playing this album for months. Jaco's arrangement of 'Dry Cleaner from Des Moines' is wonderful.

Invitation - Jaco Pastorius and the Word of Mouth Big Band

A flawed but beautiful live recording of a great band playing great arrangements of great tunes. My favourites are 'Three Views of a Secret', 'Liberty City' and 'Reza', whose experimental qualities have influenced my approach.

Sky Blue and The Thompson Fields - Maria Schneider

I only discovered Maria Schneider a few years ago, in my role as bass player in the Studio 9 Orchestra. The first piece I heard was 'Choro', a thing of great beauty. I think that she is in a class of her own as a composer and arranger, and she is a real inspiration. Her approach is uncompromising and the results are incomparably beautiful. These two albums are her most recent. The music is beautiful, the playing is wonderful and the sound of the recordings is marvellous.

Ground Up and We Like It Here -   Snarky Puppy

A couple of years ago, my friend, singer Heather Cairncross, kept sending me links to 'Thing of Gold', the opening track on 'Ground Up', which ignored for several months until I could resist no longer. I was hooked immediately. Great tunes, funky, quirky grooves, great playing, fantastic use of acoustic and electric sounds and a great vibe. The story of how the band has gone from playing to audiences of fewer than ten people to conquering the world in a few years is really encouraging.