The Canadian Brass has been on the scene for over forty years and the formula for their success hasn’t changed much. You can always count on them to program a couple of barn-burning showpieces, a few Baroque tunes, a smattering of chestnuts and a ragtime or jazz rave-up. Canadian Brass Takes Flight proves that nearly a half-century of a good thing can continue to be a good thing.
Canadian Brass Takes Flight is what Daniel Guss calls in his effusive liner notes, “a kind of state of the union address by the group.” A cynic might say that means the overlying concept behind the dozen and a half selections is to serve as a showcase for what this talented quintet can do. If you think of Canadian Brass Takes Flight as a brilliantly played and smartly packaged greatest hits album you will not be disappointed.
The Baroque selections come off very well. Readings of Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor and Fantasia and Fugue in D minor showcase the contrapuntal genius of the composer and the quintet’s clear-toned precision in revealing each of those lines. Best of all are their performances of Samuel Scheidt’s Galliard Battaglia and Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzona Prima a 5, both of which have marvelous energy and appealing bite. There are some interesting novelties too. I was really taken with the pure tonal beauty of the Canadian Brass’s playing of the Brahms Chorale Prelude No. 1, and trumpeter Brandon Ridenour’s gorgeous Lament, what I think is the best piece on the album.
There are some missteps. After hearing the album’s first track, the “Flight of the Bumblebee,” I’m determined to call a worldwide moratorium on all arrangements of the piece. On the other hand, I enjoyed the closing New Orleans set, especially the good-hearted Saints’ Hallelujah fusing the famous “When the Saints Go Marching In” onto the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
This is self-recommending for fans of the Canadian Brass, but if you are not a fan you will still find plenty to enjoy.