This is British jazz with all its virtues and a few of its faults.
Nick Reynolds 2007
Would it be fair to say that British jazz trumpeter and composer Guy Barker has an obsession with Mozart? Certainly Mozart is the inspiration for Barker's original compositions on this heavy weight double CD. But there's nothing dark or compulsive about this music. Mozart is a good starting point, as this music is witty, fluid, multi-coloured and with a light, deft touch.
There are two big suites here. The first CD "dZf" is loosely inspired by The Magic Flute, transposed to a fifties jazz noir setting and featuring a short story written by Robert Ryan and narrated Michael Brandon. You can't fault the quality of Barker's writing or the band's playing. But the story itself, featuring an archetypal doomed trumpet player, is a little hackneyed. It also contains one awkward moment, at the end of "Power Trip" when the band switch into a double time latin groove and can't quite get it. But there are some great moments in particular "Ghost Dance" featuring some wonderfully gruff saxophones.
The second CD "The Amadeus Suite" is even better: Sound pictures inspired by various characters in Mozart's work with no narrator getting in the way. Here the range of Barker's writing is even more adventurous, for example the gritty discordant fanfares at the start of "Serpent's Teeth". The band have great fun on the muted brass growling of "Les Trois Dames". The start of "Pamina's Portrait" is beguiling and original and the rest is just plain lovely.
This is British jazz with all its virtues and a few of its faults. It's big, brassy and confident. If you like flutes and Hammond organs you’ve got 'em. If you like clarinets and trombones you'll find them too. While it's slightly rough round the edges in a couple of places, you can't fault its ambition, creativity or sheer rumbustiousness.
Barker’s own playing throughout is unflagging, technically impeccable and shows a mastery of all styles and tones. All in all, it's impressive.