My Song of Songs

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The Brass Band Bridge - My Song of Songs

Words will fail here, so you may not want to read, but merely take my suggestion – buy this incredible disc!

Smith is at the peak of his form and the NYSB is also at a high water mark in its famed history. The combination is magnificent, electric. The title of the CD does not only refer to a lovely sacred song by Johnny Hallett from the late 1950s, a period of time when Phil’s dad first joined the New York Staff as cornet soloist. It signifies, emphasizes Phil Smith’s priorities.

His Christian faith comes first and underpins, motivates all else he does in music as a trumpeter at the top of the orchestral profession. Phil tells you about this in his excellent liner notes, notes that especially help you understand some of the deeper works recorded as well as personal information about Smith’s relationship with this father and this excellent band. Fittingly, Derek leads the final item, A Gaelic Blessing.

I commend the whole album to you, but it was a personal joy to hear two old classics brought so splendidly back to life: Glory to His Name, and Rhapsody on Negro Spirituals. For developing cornet players in the early 1960s-like conductor Ron Waiksnoris, myself, or way down in Australia, David King, who has talked to me about this-Derek Smith’s performance of this Rhapsody (under my father’s baton on the Word Records album Symphony in Brass) was to us THE model of ‘classic cornet playing’. Now comes Philip, who lays down his own definitive version! I could go on and on, but the superlatives overwhelm me.

Smith will also overpower you with technical brilliance on such pieces as Excursions or Concertpiece, or amaze you with his handling of contemporary styles-Joshua, for instance. Yet ultimately the heart of Smith’s excellence is his lyrical legato playing on song-like material that allows this album to transcend the merely virtuosic. Would I be exaggerating to say that if you only had one brass performance disc to buy this year-this would be it? I don’t think so. reviewed by Dr. Ronald Holz