Philip Wilby’s (b.1949) Jazz is a fascinating essay in the brass band medium. As its title implies it owes much (but not all) to that genre of music. It was inspired after a visit to New York in 1996, where the composer was impressed by the pizzazz and vitality of that great city. Wilby writes ‘I was captivated by the ceaseless energy of the metropolis, with its short active history, and its intense but heartless glamour. In many ways, New York was born in the Jazz Age, and the sound of Big Band Jazz is like its musical alter ego. Where the Lincoln Center now stands were once the original apartment blocks that inspired West Side Story, and those other Symphonic Dances; my composition cannot help but take inspiration from the sound and style of Bernstein’s masterpiece.’
It is fundamentally 'An Englishman in The Big Apple'. Yet there is much traditional brass writing: it is not all Gershwin and Gillespie. Sometimes we feel as if we are back in the dales of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The music is in four contrasting sections - each linked by a solo passage which Wilby has suggested reflects 1930s dance band practice. The ‘sections’ could be the four movement of a classical symphony. The rhythms of the dance floor appear in much of this music yet there are also some decidedly 'nocturnal' passages. Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about this piece is the sheer variety of the instrumental colour. I hardly realised that such tone and timbre was possible in a single work! This must be one of the finest masterworks written for the brass band and well deserves its success. It is a most perfect fusion of jazz and brass styles; a blend seldom seen in the repertoire.
Jazz was commissioned by Philip Biggs and Richard Franklin for the 1997 All England Master Brass Band Championship.