AVAILABLE NOW: Simon Pilbrow & The Brent Fischer Orchestra – “Colours Of Sound” – Clavo Records
Simon Pilbrow & The Brent Fischer Orchestra
Collaborate on Compositions Penned
Over 30-Year Period on Colours of Sound
Album Available Now on Clavo Records
Before their paths ever crossed, Simon Pilbrow and Brent Fischer had spent nearly four decades building upon their musical endeavors, Pilbrow forging a corpus of musical compositions, and Fischer pursuing an impressive resume and accumulating accolades, both within their respective circles. Pilbrow was very active in the Melbourne, Australia jazz scene and a composer of nearly 200 pieces, some of which are held in the U.S. Library of Congress as part of the Gerry Mulligan Collection.
Fischer, meanwhile, had established himself as an acclaimed bassist, orchestral percussionist, composer and arranger — first under the tutelage of his father, renowned composer/arranger Dr. Clare Fischer, then under his own auspices and as the keeper of his father’s legacy. With nearly 40 years in the music industry, Fischer has acquired credits on more than 30 million albums, writing for esteemed artists such as Michael Jackson, Al Jarreau, D’Angelo, Toni Braxton, Elvis Costello and many more. He has received many accolades including winning a GRAMMY® Award for best Latin Jazz album and a GRAMMY® nomination for Record of the Year.
The two were unknown to one another, however, until Pilbrow submitted a letter expressing his admiration to Clare Fischer’s website in 2011. The legendary composer’s health was already in decline (he passed away in 2012), but that email launched a friendship between Pilbrow and Brent Fischer, which resulted in regular contact and ultimately sparked a musical collaboration that can now be heard on the vibrant and enthralling new album Colours of Sound (out now via Clavo Records).
“It’s wonderful to hear people playing my tunes and bringing the music to life,” Pilbrow says. “These musicians lovingly get into the music and play with heart and soul — and great technical capacity. These tunes have gestated for a long time, so finally recording them was kind of like birthing a child.”
For listeners outside of Australia, Colours of Sound will serve as a stunning introduction to the music of Simon Pilbrow, featuring compositions penned over more than 30 years (all while maintaining a thriving medical practice). These long-unheard works have been given brilliant new life through the arrangements of Brent Fischer and the virtuosic playing of his gifted orchestra — along with the electrifying contributions of special guests Ken Peplowski, Larry Koonse and Bobby Shew. Fischer’s wide-ranging approaches — from full-throttle big band vigor to sleek, supple nonet and quintet voicings, lush string orchestrations to an elegant clarinet choir – find the ideal soil for each of Pilbrow’s diverse tunes to take root.
“I wanted to showcase Simon’s compositional talents in a unique way,” Fischer says. “Rather than making a whole album with one quartet or one big band, I felt we should present the broad swath of his compositions in an equally broad variety of settings.”
That Pilbrow and Fischer share a love for diverse orchestrational approaches should come as no surprise given the fact they both share a deep admiration for Clare Fischer’s music. The elder Fischer’s own work took many forms over the course of his career, including modernist and straight ahead big bands, Latin groups, vocal or woodwind ensembles and a brass corps, among others. Beyond that he worked with a staggering array of artists, from Dizzy Gillespie and Donald Byrd to a long-running association with Prince.
Pilbrow says that his first encounter with Dr. Fischer’s music was “an epiphany.” Throughout a lifetime listening to music, he continues, “you have moments where you hear something fresh that opens up a new vista, a new kind of landscape. Clare Fischer’s Duality was one of those — then as I became more familiar with his music I was inspired by the fact that he produced such a broad range of music that it was nevertheless coherently and completely ‘Clare Fischer.’ As I’ve come to know Brent I’ve appreciated that same quality in his musical skills.”
For Fischer’s part, he took the responsibility of premiering Pilbrow’s compositions to heart. “I wanted to present the music in as clever a fashion as I could without covering anything up,” he explains. “I didn’t want any of the musicians on the session to treat the melodies like they were familiar old standards that one could take a lot of liberties with. I was meticulous about how I wrote things so that the phrasing would represent what I heard Simon doing when he played these songs for me for the first time.”
The album kicks off with the brisk, lively swing of Pilbrow’s ode to his native land, “Australia.” The first hint of the album’s range comes with the gentle waltz “A New Beginning,” written for Pilbrow’s wife, Jean — the first of many she’s inspired over their 28 years together. It’s highlighted by a warm soprano turn by Alex Budman and Koonse’s spiraling runs. Jean also served as the muse for the ballad “September,” here swathed by the rich tones of a string ensemble.
“Remembering Woody Shaw” was penned not long after the trumpet great’s death in 1989, and reflects on Pilbrow’s sole chance to meet the jazz legend in 1981. It’s made all the more poignant by a bristling solo by Ron Stout, who counts Shaw among his own mentors. Other departed musical icons have served to inspire Pilbrow over the years, including Antonio Carlos Jobim — memorialized by the breezy Bossa Nova “Autumn Breeze” — and beloved trumpeter Blue Mitchell, the subject of the earliest piece on the album, 1981’s bop-flavored “Blue Six,” which includes a standout solo by Bobby Shew.
Perhaps inevitably, Clare Fischer himself is paid homage on “A Fischer’s Line,” which Pilbrow originally envisioned as a clarinet feature and which Brent Fischer realizes with a five-part clarinet choir, anchored by 89-year old bass clarinetist Gene Cipriano, purportedly the most recorded saxophone player in history (and still in amazing voice). The Latin-inflected “Studio City,” one of the most recent additions to Pilbrow’s catalogue, was directly inspired by his visits to the Fischer family in Los Angeles, reflecting the city’s gleaming, multi-cultural urban landscape.
Pilbrow has also been inspired by musicians still among us, including longtime Fischer collaborator Gary Foster — whose name the composer anagrammed as “Try For Ages,” a lilting tune that reprises the clarinet choir and features clarinet master Ken Peplowski. “Fast Fingers” tips the hat to the fleet digits of Benny Green, a modern keyboard-blazer in the tradition of Oscar Peterson and Roland Hanna. Finally, the joyous “Surprise” blooms in Fischer’s polyphonic reimagining, while a similar sentiment finds more urgent life in 2005’s “Joyful.”
“Tunes arise in all sorts of circumstances and from various inspirations,” Pilbrow says. “What’s beautiful about the arrangements Brent has done is that he’s completely maintained the character of each one, while enhancing them greatly with his great skill and the nuances that he brings. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Simon Pilbrow with the Brent Fischer Orchestra · Colours of Sound
Clavo Records · Release Date: September 28, 2017