Toronto-based trumpeter and composer Rebecca Hennessy is represented by her first full length recording, Hennessy is the musical director of the Massey Hall Women’s Blues Review and as a staple in several modern jazz outfits in Toronto. Here she leads a brass heavy ensemble comprised of a front line of Hennessy on trumpet, flugelhorn, peck horn & baritone horn; Tom Richards on trombone; and Jay Burr on tuba with Tania Gill on piano; Don Scott on guitar and Nico Dann on drums & triangle. Her influences include New Orleans brass bands, Balkan folk music, country blues and high-energy jazz-rock which she brings together on her compositions here which reflect her love of the natural world where four compositions being fishing songs, where two (including the title track) are inspired by bird songs. There is also a tribute to the great trumpeter Booker Little who died so young.
The opening "Red Herring" is one of the fishing songs with an initial groove that might suggest a rush hour commute before Richards takes a trombone solo set against Dann's marvelous drums before Hennessy herself solos followed by some jazz-rock guitar. In contrast to the almost manic feel of the opening track, "Horn Lake" projects a tranquility with its chamber brass opening followed by a stately piano interlude and a lovely trumpet solo with the ensemble entering and generating a bit of intensity. It is a performance that displays her compositional and organizational talents as well as her marvelous musicianship. "Lagoon" is another composition and performance having a languid feel.
The title track is a composition built on a riff derived from actual bird calls with engaging solos from Richards and Gill. "Snag," another fishing inspired number, is a playful performance set against a New Orleans second-line groove with Richards playing in a blustery, tailgate-style as Scott's guitar backing provides counterpoint. An Afro-Caribbean groove helps enliven "Bird Calls" with Hennessy judiciously using slurs followed by some more barreling brusque tailgate sounding trombone from Richards. The disc closes with the lovely "Mutterings," a tribute to the singer, Mary Margaret O’Hara, with Gill spotlighted, and the somber "Why Are You So Sad Booker Little," a lovely sober tune and performance, but somewhat removed from the fire that Little brought as a composer and musician (think of Little's composition "Bee Vamp" with Dolphy at the Five Spot).
Brass Band in the name of Rebecca Hennessy's ensemble might mislead those expecting a contemporary band in the vein of the contemporary New Orleans scene or similar aggregations. Ms. Hennessy shines as a composer and soloist, and the FOG Brass Band is an outstanding ensemble. While there has been focus on contributions of the soloists here, one cannot ignore the brass bass provided by of Jay Burr as well as with Dann's drumming. "Two Calls" is a strongly recommended, and thoroughly engrossing recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This can be purchased at bandcamp along with other outlets, https://fogbrassband.bandcamp.com/album/two-calls. Here is Rebecca Hennessy’s FOG Brass Band in performance.