The latest chapter in the unfolding musical story of Bill Wells finds the Scottish jazz outsider’s compositions played by a trio of tuba players with contributions from young brass players from his adopted hometown of Glasgow. The results, The Viaduct Tuba Trio Plays The Music Of Bill Wells, are alternately ruminative, playful and profound, ranging from the cyclical opener Fanfare For Three Tubas to a mischievous interpretation of The Midges, a comic tribute to the entomological scourge of the Highlands by Scottish singer Kenneth McKellar, and the doleful Chorale 4K before the arresting finale of Stone Throw Dream Anthem. Throughout the record you are reminded of both the power and tenderness of brass instruments – their capacity to astound and reassure, to soothe and tickle.
The trio in the title – Antony Hook, Danielle Price and Mark Reynolds – formed in 2018 to perform in the lee of the Glenfinnan Viaduct as part of the Loch Shiel Festival. Built on the West Highland Line and opened in 1901, the 21-span viaduct is nowadays best known for its appearance carrying the Hogwarts Express.
Wells contributed three tunes for the performance, including Fanfare For Three Tubas, and composed the remainder after being commissioned by Glasgow’s underground/experimental festival Counterflows as a direct result of the Glenfinnan Viaduct performance. The trio subsequently performed Wells’ tunes in Glasgow with the Gorbals Youth Brass Band, who play on three of the album’s 10 tracks, sharing a bill with a duo featuring Chicago composer, flautist and educator Nicole Mitchell and London-based percussionist Mark Sanders.
The Viaduct Tuba Trio Plays The Music Of Bill Wells represents another creative achievement for the prolific composer and multi-instrumentalist, whose output in recent years includes an album for an Estonian indie label (Remixes For Seksound, 2018), the eponymous debut LP by The Sensory Illusions, his guitar-and-tuba duo with Danielle Price (Karaoke Kalk, 2019), and Standards Vol V by his mischievously titled National Jazz Trio of Scotland (Karaoke Kalk, 2019), featuring the voice of Gerard Black (Rozi Plain, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Francois and the Atlas Mountains).
Prior to these Bill collaborated with artists including Yo La Tengo, Amy Allison and Syd Straw on Nursery Rhymes (Karaoke Kalk, 2015) and Aidan Moffat on Everything’s Getting Older (2011) and The Most Important Place In The World (2015), both on Chemikal Underground. He has also recorded albums with Jad Fair, Maher Halal Hash Baz and Stefan Schneider of To Rococo Rot among others.