Tipping Point is the latest album from the Tom Green Septet, following on from their debut album Skyline released in 2015. Green explains the title thus: “Tipping point” is a phrase that has become more and more common recently to describe global changes, whether the subject matter is climate change, politics or upheavals within society”. The ironic coincidence of the album’s release during this time of isolation due to pandemic disease is not lost. I enjoyed the progression of album artwork: Skyline shows a silhouetted boy pastorally flying a kit, Tipping Point shows that boy being dragged into darker skies by the same kite. For the record, it is stated that 20% of album sales will be donated to the charities Trees For Life (restoring the Caledonian Forest) and Cool Earth (working alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation). On to the music…
The Septet comprises Tom Green (trombone), Sam Miles (tenor saxophone), Sam Jones (piano), Scott Chapman (drums), Tommy Andrews (alto and soprano saxophones), James Dawson (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Misha Mullow-Abbadod (double bass).
The album opens forcefully with the title track track, Tipping Point. This is a wonderfully dynamic piece with orchestrated winds playing over the restrained trio of drums, bass and piano. Sax, trumpet and trombone each play solos, while the others weave in and out in this tense number. Champagne Sky starts as a quieter piano-led piece then builds as the winds add layers of melody and counter-melody over a pounding bass line. Trumpet and piano quietly open the melodic Kaliedoscope before the saxes lead the migration to the complex sound that typifies this band. Features quiet solos from bass and trombone before the frenetic close. Between Now And Never is a laid-back, mellifluous number, largely dominated by piano and bass.
Seatoller is quite an edgy piece, arranged into a number of distinct movements: a tight interplay of winds over repeating piano line, a question and answer duel, a chaotic wind free-for-all, piano solo, all carefully confined and ultimately resolving.
You can view a live version of Seatoller here:
In contrast, My Old Man is a light-hearted, funky little instrumental rendition of the Joni Mitchell number. Jack O' Lantern is a lively piece with marvellous interplay between winds and featuring a duet between piano and bass, all held together by the controlling drums. Chorale, is a quieter and soothing piece to close the album.
I confess that I hadn’t heard of the Tom Green Septet before this review and I’m impressed. Each player is masterful but the arrangements are what makes this so enjoyable. Conflicting melodies wind and weave around each other seamlessly, the dynamic sequence of quiet and forceful movements convey the emotion of the pieces. I love an album that I can come back to after several listenings and still hear new elements. The balance is spot on with each instrument giving just the right amount of presence to be heard clearly yet not over-dominate the collective sound.
While there are many quiet phrases, the overall impression is one of huge energy that lifts the spirit. Frankly, I’m a little astonished to hear such mastery and accomplishment in such a young band.
My tip … give yourself a treat and listen to them for yourself!