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French Horn isn’t one of the quintessential jazz instruments, but Jim Rattigan is a good enough player, composer and leader to make you ask yourself: why not? A former member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Rattigan has fronted plenty of jazz sets before; he’s also a go-to session musician who’s appeared on big film soundtracks among many other things. But this is only the second outing with his large and starry ensemble Pavillon (named for the French word for the horn’s bell), and it’s remarkable that the rich and varied textures here are the upshot of only a six-hour recording session. There are some serious themes here-the title track was written just after the 2016 referendum; ‘Oh Yeah Great, Thanks’ is a reflection on environmental issues-but the ensemble make a generally vivacious and uplifting sound. ‘Timbuckthree’ which takes it’s title from Rattigan’s son trying to outdo his dad’s reference to Timbuktu, references classical themes from Ravel and Richard Strauss, but despite Rattigan’s background this is not a classical/jazz crossover disk. The tunes-all originals-are beautifully arranged but there’s space for some great soloing from Rattigan’s high-end ensemble.
Robert Shore, JAZZWISE August 2020
Yet as playful and plentiful as the banter between musician and audience may be it does not deflect attention from an evening of impressive composing, arranging and improvising ………
As a bandleader who plays the French horn, Rattigan could be seen as niche or novelty within jazz, and though his most notable musical antecedents – think Junior Collins, John Clark, Tom Varner – are relatively few the equally significant fact is that he is at the helm of a 12-piece orchestra, Pavillon bolstered by soloists like alto-saxophonist Martin Speake, drummer Gene Calderazzo and trumpeter Percy Pursglove. Playing material drawn largely from the recently reissued 2011 set, Strong Tea, the band is anchored by a potent rhythm section in which Calderazzo is joined by double-bassist Dave Whitford and pianist Hans Koller. They make a strong engine within the ensemble.
Kevin Le Gendre – Jazzwisemagazine.com
It was interesting, however, to realise how an unfamiliar instrument can always catch your attention and James Rattigan’s French horn was distinctive throughout. Hovering somewhere between a trombone and a flugelhorn it had a clarity of tone that allowed it to rise from the collective brass sound without any apparent effort. This ensured that the composer’s voice would always have the last word and rightly so – for all the talent on display (and I haven’t yet mentioned Percy Pursglove’s fiery flugelhorn on Dulwich Park or Martin Speake’s suavely bopping alto on Strong Tea) it was the band’s whole sound that really stood out. Big thanks to the Arts Council, therefore, for funding this intelligent contemporary project and enlivening a chilly winter’s evening so splendidly.
Tony Benjamin – Bristol 24/7
Solos were consistently impressive and never overlong, Rattigan unobtrusively keeping a tight rein on proceedings from stage left. All underpinned by Dave Whitford and Gene Calderazzo on bass and drums respectively, the latter’s unflagging energy a thing to marvel at. What a well-blended sound Pavillon make, the players listening to and responding to one another with palpable care and attention. Different instrumental colours were deployed with dazzling skill, quiet, muted trumpets sparring with a trio of saxophones. Buy this group’s new album Strong Tea if you can’t catch them on tour, and be grateful that harmonically interesting, rhythmically vibrant new music is still being composed.
Graham Rickson – theartsdesk.com
Jim Rattigan plays the French horn and before turning to jazz played in leading symphony orchestras. It takes a bit of getting used to, simply because its sound is so rarely heard in a jazz context. But Rattigan is also a composer with a canny approach when it comes to combining the sounds of various instruments. The distinctive voice of the horn soon becomes familiar as it weaves among the saxophones and trumpets and takes its turn among the soloists. The hard-to-achieve balance between scored ensemble and improvisation is perfect. And it’s quite a band, too, each one of the 12 a player of note. Touring soon – catch them if they come your way.
Dave Gelly – The Guardian
Jim Rattigan who leads the A-list cast of experienced Brit based jazzers that make up Pavillon was a former principal French horn of the Royal Philharmonic from 1989-95 before he left to take up jazz playing full-time. The horn is perhaps associated most in jazz with Gil Evans and Rattigan’s stint in Evans disciple Mike Gibbs orchestra paved the way for his airily inventive originals and arrangements for this 12-piece contemporary jazz ensemble on new CD strong tea. Originally recorded in 2010 for his 50th birthday, Rattigan has been practical in waiting until now to release it to coincide with an arts Council funding ‘live’ tour.
Although the album title might suggest an interest in a veteran Jazzwise scribe The Colonel’s quaint brand of Englishness, the definition of Pavillon here is more cosmopolitan; it’s the French term for the bell of his horn. The same goes for the music; Rattigan writes excellent themes and along the way there are shades of Miles Davis’ modal-rock impressionism the aforementioned Gil Evans and George Russell mixed with a more rugged bluesy Mingus-ness approach via Ellington. The horn-brass arrangements have that feeling of having grown organically out of the compositions with airily serpentine punctuations giving shape to some creative soloing from all concerned including the unusual, playful sound of Rattigan’s French horn.
Selwyn Harris – Jazzwise 2017
Strong Tea has a running time of forty minutes. So good is it that another forty minutes would have been most welcome.
“bebop spoken here” website
Click here to read a review of the Strong Tea CD on the bebop spoken here website ⇉
Click here to read an article in the Morning Star about Jim Rattigan, written by Chris Searle