The Music of James Pugh & Daniel Schnyder


Signum Records are delighted to present this world-class ensemble, led by trumpeter Graham Ashton. This group of talented New Yorkers have performed the works of James Pugh and Daniel Schnyder in concerts across the globe.

The relationship between these two composers and the Brass Ensemble has developed far beyond mutual friendship and respect. Since the year 2000, when James Pugh first wrote "And Flights of Angels" for the group, the ensemble have seldom performed a concert without a selection of his and Daniel’s music. Both James and Daniel now write many pieces exclusively for these players, and have created a close and successful partnership, both on stage and off.
The world of brass music is relatively under-explored, and James Pugh (Professor of Trombone at Purchase College, State University of New York) and Daniel Schnyder (Composer-in-Residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) have specialised in a repertoire that is both fun, challenging and extremely versatile.
A champion of brass ensemble music, Graham Ashton reformed the Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble (GABE) upon relocating to New York in 1999. The ensemble quickly made its mark by drawing together an eclectic mix of Manhattan’s most distinguished brass players from the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and American Symphony. GABE made their New York début in 2000 at the 25th Anniversary conference of the International Trumpet Guild.

What people are saying

"… his ensemble of Manhattan’s finest brass players is, on this showing, as smooth and subtle as you’ll ever hope to hear" Musical Pointers
"The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble has produced an exceptionally fine recording … beautiful, spacious, playful, and mysterious. I have listened to it many times and it is better every time." International Horn Society
"succeeds on every level: extraordinary musicianship, clear and sonorous recorded sound, fresh and interesting repertoire." The Brass Player (New York) 

Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble 

Release date:9th Feb 2004
Order code:SIGCD504
Barcode: 635212050422

Graham Ashton, London born trumpeter and one time member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, has led a distinguished peripatetic professional life in Europe, Australia and, now, New York, where his ensemble of Manhattan’s finest brass players is, on this showing, as smooth and subtle as you’ll ever hope to hear. Both these composers are active in the brass world and of eclectic bent, each ‘composing in any number of styles’. The liner notes ask us to hope that they will ‘stand the test of time to become household names beyond the realms of our brass world’. This is an apt reminder that brass music, as choral music, tends to be compartmentalised and ghettoised apart from ‘mainstream’ concert fare. Additionally there are national boundaries which aren’t crossed; there is a multitude of American composers unknown in UK. James Pugh, who plays in the group, is Professor of Trombone at Purchase College and Daniel Schnyder is Composer-in-Residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orcnestra. Pugh’s and Schnyder’s music, which feature in all GABE’s concerts, is accessible but never simplistic nor, at the other extreme, does it have any truck with ‘cutting edge’ modernism; Pugh’s the more securely tonally based, Schnyder’s the more adventurous.
It is all imaginative, often witty (as evidenced by their titles) and makes for an enthralling hour of enjoyment – a CD which I would never have considered purchasing, or suggesting to review, from a listing. Exemplary recording at Purchase College and Signum’s presentation to their usual high standard.

Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers

May 2004
It is a delightful experience to be introduced to a fine ensemble for the first time. It is a wonderful experience to hear and learn new works for brass ensemble. It is an especially exciting experience to hear horn playing as good as Jeff Lang sounds on this CD. OK, I’ll stop holding back and tell you what I really think of this recording! The Graham Aston Brass Ensemble has produced an exceptionally fine recording of new works for brass. The two composers here have exhibited a wide range of spirit and styles in works that should become frequently performed parts of the brass ensemble repertoire. I will tell you my favorite pieces on this CD. I won’t tell you my least favorites because they might be the ones you think are the best. We’re all going to have a favorite or two. The variety is very wide here.
Daniel Schnyder’s The Iron Tetrapod is my favorite. I’m not sure I will be able to tell you why, it just is. It may be that while listening to it I imagined how much fun it would be to play. It is full of energetic rhythmic drive that blurs the classical/jazz line. It could have been an incidental dance by Leonard Bernstein from West Side Story. For two trumpets, horn, and trombone and being a bit under four minutes, it would be a good change of pace on a brass quintet recital. In addition to being a very good piece, it would give the audience some variety in instrumentation, and the tuba player probably wouldn’t mind the time off.
The opening work, And Flights of Angels, employs the entire ensemble and is beautiful, spacious, playful, and mysterious. I have listened to it many times and it is better every time. Schnyder’s Trio is five movements of energy in a wide-ranging emotional piece. The expressive range of the brass trio is explored and stretched.
In the past I have occasionally purchased music, sight unseen, solely because of the title. Sometimes I wasted my money. Sometimes I found a winner. This would be one of the winners. Written for two trumpets, horn, and trombone, Aviariations is one that I would buy just because of the title. Wouldn’t you, with movements titled “One Good Tern,” “No Egrets,” and “Toucan Dance?”
Four Short Stories, for Brass Octet consists of four short movements that are best described as ‘very busy’. There’s only a little broad expansiveness here, lots of scurrying about.: it sounds like fun. The last movement, Monkfish lasting 36 seconds, is too short!
4x2x1 features the extraordinary bass trombone playing of David Taylor with guest trombonists Joe Alessi, Dick Clark, Eijiro Nakagawa, Mark Patterson, Matt Ingman (bass), and Jeff Nelson (bass).
Triad is best described by composer James Pugh: “Triad was written at a time when I was dealing with personal issues surrounding my own status as an adoptee. The title refers to the ‘adoptive triad’ of birth mother, adoptive mother and child.; each instrument plays one of the roles – horn, trumpet and trombone respectively. The piece begins pre-birth and explores some of the dynamics of these difficult and highly interwoven relationships.”
Closing this CD’s program is Three American Dances. And a great ending it is with African feel, jazz feel, and Cuban feel. Whether you are listening to your favorite piece on this CD or your least favorite, you will be hearing excellent music, performed and recorded beautifully.

Calvin Smith, The International Horn Society

The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble, based at Purchase College, State University of New York, presents music by James Pugh and Daniel Schnyder in their premier recording. GABE is a brass octet – on this cd they also perform trios, quartets, and, with some guests, a work for trombone ensemble. This project succeeds on every level: extraordinary musicianship, clear and sonorous recorded sound, fresh and interesting repertoire.

Jim Pugh and Daniel Schnyder share some common ground, each being prominent in both jazz and "classical" circles as performers as well as composers. The music here is of remarkable quality, engaging at first hearing with the depth and substance that rewards repeated exposure.

These works are often intensely rhythmical – you would be hard pressed to find a brass ensemble recording that swings this hard. Pugh and Schnyder also offer contrasts. Jim’s music is full of appealing lines, counterpoint, and harmonic sonorities that range from wistful to majestic. Daniel revels in texture: he loves to mix colors, blur voices together, design striking solos. Now and then he’ll throw you passages of rhythmic interplay that are just outrageous.

This cd works beautifully from beginning to end. Here are some highlights: the ‘Trios’ by Jim and Daniel – both significant compositions played by Graham Ashton, Jeff Lang, and Jim Pugh with elegance and fire; Jim’s captivating ’Äò4x2x1’Äô – a trombone ensemble work; Daniel’s ‘Four Short Stories’ – whichsqueezes an insane amount of solo and group virtuosity into its four minutes – it will startle you again and again; and finally, Daniel’s Jazz Feel (movt ii) from ‘Three American Dances’ where Mark Gould’s solo trumpet recalls the fervent color of Mannie Klein.

Congratulations to Graham and his Ensemble, Jim, Daniel, and everyone involved with this recording.

Chris Gekker, The Brass Player, New York

January 2004

Despite the best efforts of Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off, brass music – like table tennis – has remained a minority sport. But this exciting collaboration between a fine ensemble and these two first-rate composers should redress the balance. The pieces are challenging and fun and should win new converts to the world of brass.

Andy Richardson, Shropshire Star

  1. And Flights of Angels… – James Pugh – 6.36
  2. Trio: Movement I – Daniel Schnyder – 5.49
  3. Trio: Movement II – Daniel Schnyder – 2.01
  4. Trio: Movement III – Daniel Schnyder – 1.58
  5. Trio: Movement IV – Daniel Schnyder – 1.28
  6. Trio: Movement V – Daniel Schnyder – 1.17
  7. Aviariations: One good tern … – James Pugh – 1.50
  8. Aviariations: No egrets – James Pugh – 3.14
  9. Aviariations: Toucan Danse – James Pugh – 3.53
  10. Four Short Stories, for brass octet: Follow me – Daniel Schnyder – 1.03
  11. Four Short Stories, for brass octet: The opposite is true – Daniel Schnyder – 1.10
  12. Four Short Stories, for brass octet: Matrix – Daniel Schnyder – 1.21
  13. Four Short Stories, for brass octet: The Monkfish – Daniel Schnyder – 0.36
  14. 4x2x1 – James Pugh – 8.37
  15. The Iron Tetrapod – Daniel Schnyder – 3.45
  16. Triad – James Pugh – 6.25
  17. Three American Dances: (African feel) – Daniel Schnyder – 2.44
  18. Three American Dances: (Jazz feel) – Daniel Schnyder – 3.25
  19. Three American Dances: (Cuban feel) – Daniel Schnyder – 3.14