Concert review: Brass Diversions at Bute Arts Society

Brass Diversions - Christopher Baxter, Tom Poulson and Antonio Jimenez Marin.
Brass Diversions - Christopher Baxter, Tom Poulson and Antonio Jimenez Marin.

Brass Diversions provided the music at the latest concert in Bute Arts Society’s 2012-13 winter series at Rothesay Joint Campus on Friday night - but music wasn’t the only thing on the menu.

“As much about entertainment as about a musical performance” was the description one audience member gave on leaving the hall at the end of the night - and there was no shortage of either as the trio covered a remarkable range of genres during a breathtaking two-and-a-bit hours.

Brass Diversions, comprising Christopher Baxter on piano, Tom Poulson on trumpet and Antonio Jimenez Marin on trombone, came to Rothesay for the last concert in their four-date tour of Argyll and Bute, and while they may have looked fresh-faced, there was nothing immature about their performances.

That said, nor did they stick to the ‘traditional’ repertoire of most classically-trained musicians. Their programme may have begun with J.S. Bach’s trio sonata in G major, but they very quickly left the “heavyweight classical music” (Poulson’s words!) behind and embarked on a journey which included some very unfamiliar stops along the way.

Those stops included a beautifully-evocative Pastorale by the little-known American composer Eric Ewazen, two movements from Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (written as a companion piece to the Vivaldi original), and two superb piano solos for Baxter, conjuring up images of Spain (La soiree dans Grenads, from Debussy’s Estampes) and the Orient (China Gates by the minimalist composer John Adams).

The ‘entertainment’ side of the evening’s programme very definitely had trombonist Marin at its centre: despite having performed for the first time with the group only seven days previously, he stole the first half of the show with Folke Rabe’s incredible, bizarre but utterly riveting Basta (Italian for “enough!”) and went a long way to doing the same in the second in partnership with Poulson in ‘Hawk Hardon and Kit Bones’, a hilarious musical send-up of a spaghetti Western.

The finale, an Operatic Fantasy arranged by the group and showcasing some of the best-known works of Mozart and Rossini, and the encore, Rossini’s Duet for Two Cats, may have ended the evening on a better-known note, but this was a fascinating insight into the lesser-known corners of the brass player’s art - and was hugely enjoyed by all those listening to it.