True North Brass is a relatively small group–only five members–but mighty. With two trumpeters, one trombone (or euphonium, played by Alastair Kay), one tuba (Scott Irvine), and one French horn (Joan Watson), each individual instrument has lots of opportunity to shine. And shine they all do! On a small personal note, I must say that I am particularly happy to review a brass ensemble that includes a female participant; way too many of these musical groups are exclusively testosterone-driven! Bravo, Joan Watson!
Carol Swanson, ChristmasReviews.com
In all, this is a welcome release, with a great hook to its programming and outstanding playing throughout. Thank you, Opening Day, for giving me another demonstration-class brass CD. There may be a more famous brass ensemble from north of the border, but True North is the real Canadian Brass.
Randy A. Salas, Fanfare Magazine
Our production team was happy to work with you again this year and we all really enjoyed your performance. Your appearance on the show helped us to raise 6.3 million dollars in Ontario for Easter Seals Kids – congratulations!
2004 Easter Seals Telethon
A few weeks ago, I was coaxed into going to a concert by the True North Brass. Am I glad I went! These 5 are immensely talented musicians and performers. Much of the music I heard at the concert is on this CD – a wonderful mix of Bach, Duke Ellington, “folk” , and “new”. My favourite is a “new” piece “Downbound from Thunder Bay”. I didn’t think I was in the mood for “brass” the night I went to the concert, but I guess I didn’t realize just what amazing sounds a brass quintet could produce. Nor how much the artists’ obvious enjoyment of their performance could add to my own. I wish I knew more about music so I could do this group justice.
“A music fan” – listener feedback on Amazon.com
This is a solid group with good tuning, strong individual and ensemble playing and experience and ease in a very wide range of material. As well as the performing standards there are some good composing and arranging talents in the quintet. The Canadian Brass has become known for it’s entertainment and humour – traits that are also with TRUE NORTH BRASS. But I get the sense from this group that, supporting these entertainment values, is a serious commitment to brass playing in general and the Brass Quintet repertoire. I’ll look forward to future recordings. This one gets five stars.
Rick Phillips, CBC “Sound Advice”
This is a double debut album, for it is the recording premiere by an outstanding new Canadian brass quintet in which the group provides “a recital of original material and newly arranged pieces recorded for the first time.” Canadian music takes first place in the repertoire and most of the album is written or arranged by talented members in the quintet. Great players, great recording, a diverse and demanding program handled with seeming ease! Two of the players are just outrageously gifted in the technique department. Trombonist Alastair Kay on Czardas and tubist Scott Irvine on Clarinet Polka are truly ‘outrageous,’ in the the positive sense of that slang expression. The quintet tackles the three fugal expositions of Bach’s “St. Anne’s” Fugue with the right combination of grandeur and restraint that makes for a compelling and moving listening experience. Hats off to True North Brass – they are truly a fine ensemble. I highly recommend this disc.
The BRASS BAND BRIDGE Official Journal of the North American Brass Band Association
The players in this Toronto-based group can seemingly play anything. The five members of True North Brass come from a wide array of backgrounds and their multi-genre flair is on display throughout this eclectic CD. Scott Irvine’s phenomenal virtuosity on the lowly but surprisingly flexible (at least in his hands) tuba graces his own arrangement of Clarinet Polka, penned originally for the Canadian Brass. Many of the other pieces offer excuses to show off the musicianship of the individual members of the ensemble. Howard Cable’s “Ontario Pictures” includes a warm and seamless solo by horn player Joan Watson; Vittorio Monti’s “Czardas” serves as a showcase for the astonishingly agile trombone of Alastair Kay (the solo was originally for violin, and Kay plays it at violin pitch!): and “Stardust” features an exuberant and sexy solo by Stuart Laughton, right out of a 1940’s film noir. The recording was produced and engineered by Anton Kwiatkowski, who captures to perfection the music’s wide dynamic range and sumptuous sonorities.
Rick MacMillan, Classical Music Magazine