Groove Travels is the highly anticipated new album from British trumpeter, arranger and composer Gerard Presencer, featuring the Danish Radio Big Band.
Groove Travels is set to be a defining album both for Gerard and for new Big Band conceptions. This new release is without doubt his most ambitious and well-executed solo recording to date and will happily stand alongside the leading voices in contemporary big band music.
The idea for this album first took root when Gerard moved to Copenhagen to take a trumpet seat in the band. As Gerard explains: ‘It’s taken five or six years for me to get this album together which is great for a project like this, because I got to know everybody, we play together all the time, so the tunes that I’ve chosen are specifically chosen for the musicians that are playing them’.
Over the past 25 years Gerard Presencer has carved out a formidable reputation as one of the most respected trumpeters on the European scene. He exploded onto the international scene, aged 18, when US3 asked him to play the solo part on Blue Note’s Cantaloupe Island (re-imagined as Cantaloop Flip-Fantasia), that became one of the biggest selling jazz records of the 1990s. Since then, he has performed with a who’s who of international jazz artists, and has developed a career as an educator, arranger and composer.
Gerard has also been an essential member of Charlie Watts’ various jazz groups over the last 25 years, touring the world and releasing several albums in various groups with the jazz-loving Stone!
Gerard continues to push himself and his instrument, moving outside his comfort zone in order to develop as a player and writer.
He points out: ‘In the future I would like to play more frequently without drums and without microphones because then I have to really focus on my sound and get very fundamental things sounding really beautiful and controlled. To play the trumpet quietly is the biggest challenge for me, so that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment: shhhh!’.
As the title of this project suggests, cultural diversity has played a vital part in shaping Gerard’s music and he wanted to add contrasting colours to what was a predominantly northern European sound.
“Another aspect of music I love is the cross-fertilisation of different cultures within our music. With this album I wanted to take a Scandinavian ensemble and myself (the most exotic it got!), and I added guest lead trumpet, Adam Rapa from America and Cuban percussionist Eliel Lazo. I wanted to push everyone out of their comfort zone for this and it’s really exciting to see how we respond to the challenges as a band…”
The travelling implied in the title comes as much from a restless desire to find new influences, new musical touchstones: ‘Groove Travels is maybe a loose idea. It’s not a travelogue, but a compilation of grooves that I’ve heard on my travels that have caught my imagination. I’ve always written music that inspires me from the groove upwards, that’s always what gets me excited. First of all I just need a groove and that gives me ideas for the rest of the music’.
Gerard compares the writing on Groove Travels to writing for a gigantic horn section. For example... “‘The Devil’s Larder’ is two big bands, multi-tracked, so it’s the biggest horn section ever! Which is a lot of fun…” And fun it is for us too!
The ensemble playing and the writing is sophisticated and exciting - as one would expect from a big band that has had leaders such as Bob Brookmeyer and Thad Jones - this is as good technically as big band jazz gets, but without the obvious fun, the joie de vivre so clearly on display, Groove Travels would only be a very fine album. With this x factor, it’s a great one.