Alison Balsom

Paris

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AllMusic Review by

British trumpeter Alison Balsom, with a distinctive clear sound and as photogenic as one could ask, has moved to the front of the pack of young trumpeters vying to succeed the giants of the late 20th century. With Paris, she reaches a transcendent new level. There is nothing so original about a program of light Parisian music, but the way in which Balsom carries it off is unique. For one thing, the music isn't so light: it ranges from elegant (the Satie and Ravel pieces) to moody (Piazzolla), to profound (the selections from Messiaen's Le Baiser de l'Enfant Jésus). Only at the end does the mood relax with a pair of popular and jazz selections. The tempo is in the middle range and doesn't vary much from piece to piece, and the trumpet is kept in quiet mode throughout. It's a sequence that would have defeated a lesser player, but in Balsom's hands it becomes hypnotic. She had a hand in the arrangements herself, and the selection of works, like Satie's Gymnopédie No. 3 and Gnossiene No. 3, that you would never guess could find a home on the trumpet, is extremely ingenious. Mostly Balsom has worked with major symphony orchestras, but here she takes the daring step of teaming with the small Guy Barker & His Orchestra, an ensemble oriented toward jazz that is itself led by a trumpeter. The feel of the album is unique: it is not jazzed-up classical music (although the program does end with Django Reinhardt), but a texture with a uniquely flexible relationship between soloist and ensemble. A superior recital in every way.

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