Tom Syson Sextet ‘Green’ (Self-released) 5/5

Although Tom Syson’s debut release is entitled ‘Green’, Tom himself has donned a coat of many musical colours to bring the listener a kaleidoscope of sound.

The opening track, ‘Constant’, although short, seems to act as a fanfare, introducing us to Tom’s abilities. Although the cover art on the CD depicts various blossoms, it is clear that Tom is certainly no shrinking violet. We have powerful declarations along with Rex Stewart like half-valve effects. But the trumpeter also has a strong grasp of the contemporary jazz trumpet language. He cites Blue Note recording artist Ambrose Akinmusire as an influence along with a master from an earlier generation – Dizzy Gillespie.

The second piece ‘Bamberg’ is a much more considered almost pastoral piece of work. Here the sextet work particularly well together. There is a sensitive solo from pianist David Ferris. At times, throughout the course of the album, I’m reminded of the work of fellow trumpeter Colin Steele.

Tom graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire in 2015 and since then has dedicated himself to building a thriving jazz career and enhancing the jazz scene in his home county of Bedfordshire. However, he has retained and capitalized upon the links that he forged with fellow musicians on the thriving Birmingham jazz scene. The Sextet includes names familiar to Midlands audiences. In addition to David Ferris we hear from guitarist Ben Lee, himself a rising star of the local jazz scene, fellow Birmingham graduate and long-time collaborator, Vittorio Mura on tenor sax, the ubiquitous Jonathan Silk at the drums and the only non-Birmingham graduate in the group, Pete Hutchison on double bass. All of the musicians are well used to working together and clearly familiarity breeds content.

All ten compositions on the album are by Syson and each have a specific story attached. For instance, ‘Bamberg’, a town in Northern Bavaria, is a place with happy associations for Tom dating back to school music exchange visits. The title track ‘Green’ is named after a road leading to his home village, the song summing up the feeling one has when returning home. ‘Bluebells’ was written whilst sitting amongst them.

Perhaps the most adventurous track on the album is ‘Raindrops’ featuring vocalist Lauren Kinsella and which depicts Syson’s struggles with anxiety and how it has affected him.

All of the pieces create very evocative pictures in sound. I particularly enjoyed ‘Far From Boundaries New’ with exceptional playing all round with Syson and Mura in particular building up a fine head of steam.

The leader and Silk flex their musical muscles on ‘Leroy the Tiger’.

In addition to leading his own Sextet, Syson is also a member of the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra which also has a recording out. The sextet will be touring extensively over the next two months and so there will be ample opportunity to hear them in action playing the wonderful music from this recording.

Alan Musson