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Posted: Sunday 10th December 2006
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Will Todd: Mass in Blue – All Music Guide

British composer Will Todd’s 2003 “Mass in Blue” follows in the tradition of Dave Brubeck’s jazz-tinged oratorios, but is even more uncompromising in its use of “pure” jazz, with very little influence from the classical tradition. If it were not for the use of a chorus, any of the movements would be indistinguishable from the vocal blues that could be heard in the best clubs. In fact, the chorus often sings in unison, as if standing in for a soloist. The “Mass” also uses a soloist, soprano Bethany Halliday, whose creamy voice shines especially in the Agnus Dei, and she more than holds her own in her improvisatory expertise. The Vasari Singers, led by Jeremy Backhouse, are known primarily for their virtuosic performances of some of the most challenging contemporary music, but they are perfectly at ease in this idiom; they make choral jazz sound like it ought to be an established tradition. Todd’s setting is imaginative, unpredictable, and full of irrepressible energy. The CD also contains eight of his settings of English and Latin liturgical and religious texts, some a cappella and some accompanied, in the contemporary classical tradition. The richness of his harmonies and his idiomatic choral writing show Todd’s mastery of this style, but his compositional voice here is less distinctive and compelling than in the “Mass.”

Stephen Eddins
All Music Guide