Jim Rattigan’s When reviewed by BBC Music Magazine Jan 2021
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One of the UK’s leading French horn players, Jim Rattigan is widely recognised as a pioneer of the jazz French horn and has performed with many globally renowned artists including, Michael Brecker, Bill Frisell, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, Paul McCartney, George Michael and Adele.
He returns with a new album from his latest album When (Three Worlds Records) which is released on 4 December and features a stellar cast of UK musicians including pianist Nikki Iles, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer James Maddren alongside The Tear Quartet string ensemble of Julian Tear (violin), Alison Gordon (violin), Nic Barr (viola), and Nic Cooper (cello).
Commenting on the music Rattigan says: “Having had a career in classical music and now playing jazz, I thought that I would write some music that would combine the two worlds,” explains Rattigan. “This is not crossover music but a juxtaposition – the two styles working side by side. I worked with Julian Tear for many years in the Academy of St Martin’s chamber orchestra and asked him to record the music with his quartet. The quartet becomes a quintet when I call on the double bass to play ‘arco’ and the French horn is a bridge between to two genres.”
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“The Freedom of Movement” represents another impressive offering from Pavillon. Rattigan’s compositions and arrangements are rich, colourful and inventive and the playing, by a hand picked ensemble, is exceptional throughout. It’s a recording that wears its undoubted sophistication lightly, and which injects a little welcome humour at appropriate moments. Credit is also due to the production and engineering team of Rattigan, Peter Beckman and Alex Bonney for the warmth and quality of the mix.
Once again Rattigan makes the French horn a thoroughly convincing jazz solo instrument and “The Freedom of Movement” is 100% a jazz record, and an excellent one at that. In no way is this some kind of tepid jazz/classical crossover. The presence of such an all star jazz line up immediately dispels that idea.
Thanks to Ian Mann at The Jazz Mann May 2020
What a wonderful glow there is in the sound of the French horn. But it takes real courage to specialise in the instrument, for the horn is a beautiful but awesomely temperamental beast to master, ever ready to crack and send your notes splitting in all directions like shattered glass.
But Jim Rattigan is not only a master of the instrument, with a wealth of classical and studio experience, he has achieved the even greater distinction of becoming a fluent improviser in the jazz world. And he is an extraordinarily gifted composer and arranger too. He is currently on a UK tour with his large ensemble Pavillon, and their concert at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Eastside Jazz Club was a triumph. (The title of the group, by the way, comes from the French word for the instrument’s bell.)
The inclusion of the French horn in jazz groups, though rare, goes back a long way: starting with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and also the work of Julius Watkins in the Ernie Fields Band in the early 1940s; then the playing of Willie Ruff with Lionel Hampton; and in game-changing style the writing of Gil Evans for the classic Birth Of The Cool recordings by the Miles Davis Nonet. Composer Gunther Schuller – who was a horn player on some of those nonet recordings – further developed the use of the instrument in his own “third stream” creations. In later years, Mike Gibbs used the horn in some of his orchestra line-ups, but the instrument has largely remained a jazz rarity.
Rattigan’s work puts the French horn firmly back on the jazz map.
With a 12-strong line-up including trumpeters Robbie Robson and Steve Fishwick, saxophonists Martin Speake and James Allsopp, pianist Hans Koller and drummer Martin France, Pavillon boasts superb sololists as well as richly-textured ensembles and imaginative compositions.
The tour celebrates the release of the new Pavillon CD The Freedom Of Movement (Three Worlds Records), with witty tune titles including See You Suddenly, Crout’n Confusion, and Oh Yeah, Great, Thanks. This last piece was inspired, Rattigan told the audience, by the thought of a younger generation inheriting a parched planet spoiled by environmental chaos. There could hardly be a more serious subject, but the title Oh Yeah, Great, Thanks, always seems to make people laugh, said Jim. Well, that’s irony for you.
Other inspired pieces from the new album, and the earlier release Strong Tea (Pavillon Records), included Sweet Tamarind – with a triple-time beat rushing headlong into a fast 4/4 – and Horn Call, with the ensemble on a thrilling musical knife-edge between control and chaos.
We really must hear much more of this band in the years to come.
Pavillon’s current UK tour continues on 22 November at the Bear Club, Luton, and concludes on 17 January 2020 at Fleece Jazz, Stoke-by-Nayland, Colchester.
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Release date: 18 October 2019
6th October – Herts Jazz, St. Albans
11th October – Wakefield Jazz
15th October – Norwich Jazz Club
19th October – Jazz Cafe Posk, London (album launch)
5th November – Hastings Jazz Club
7th November – Birmingham East Side Jazz Club
22nd November – The Bear Club, Luton
17th January 2020 – Fleece Jazz at Stoke by Nayland, Colchester
Jim Rattigan’s Pavillon returns with a new album and tour following the success of their debut release Strong Tea. “I chose the title The Freedom of Movement to reflect my career, not only travelling the world performing but also moving between many different genres of music,” explains Rattigan. “The freedom to do both these things has always excited me as a musician and in all the truly wonderful experiences that I have had, the highlight has undoubtedly been forming the group Pavillon.”
Rattigan has composed and arranged nine new compositions for Pavillon. The 12-piece band features the following leading musicians, each one of a player of note: Martin Speake, Andy Panayi and Mick Foster on saxophone; Percy Pursglove, Steve Fishwick and Robbie Robson on trumpet; Mark Nightingale on tenor trombone; Sarah Williams on bass trombone; Hans Koller on piano; Dave Whitford on double bass and Martin France drums. “It is a joy to write for these amazing and creative jazz musicians and I leave space in the compositions for creativity through improvisation,” says Rattigan. “The music in The Freedom of Movement is reflective at times but also optimistic and I hope, uplifting.”
Jim Rattigan: www.jimrattigan.com
Jim Rattigan is one of the UK’s leading French horn players and widely recognised as a pioneer of the jazz French horn. He has performed with many globally renowned artists including, Michael Brecker, Bill Frisell, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, Paul McCartney, George Michael and Adele. Rattigan has recorded with all the London symphony orchestras including soundtracks for the James Bond and Lord of the Rings series and he was a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1989 to 1995. After leaving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Rattigan started playing jazz full time with the likes of Hans Koller, eventually forming his own quartet with Koller, Dave Whitford and Gene Calderazzo. Working with musicians such as Percy Pursglove and Robbie Robson in various ensembles run by Mike Gibbs inspired Rattigan to form his own 12-piece band, named Pavillon after the French word for the bell of the French horn.