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Home » Full Catalogue » SWANTON, LLOYD: Ambon (double CD/booklet)

SWANTON, LLOYD: Ambon (double CD/booklet)
SWANTON, LLOYD: Ambon (double CD/booklet)
In 1940, 27-year-old Stuart Swanton enlisted at Melbourne Town Hall, and the following year, was sent to defend Ambon in Dutch East Indies from Japanese invasion. Totally inadequate in numbers, the force was overwhelmed. Stuart spent the rest of the conflict in a Japanese prison camp with the second-highest death rate of any in WWII; the day before war ended, he died from beri-beri, caused by acute vitamin deficiency. At grave personal risk, he'd kept a coded diary that survived. Fifteen years later, his nephew Lloyd was born. Stuart had been gifted musically; Lloyd became a professional musician, now best-known as bassist with The Necks. But he also has a passionate interest in the history of the war in which his uncle fought and died, describing the Ambon expedition as "a scandalous part of our history". Now, he says, he is glad to have "got off my chest" this moving tribute. Ambon is a suite of pieces performed by an expanded version of Swanton's regular band The catholics, with extra horns, ukulele, Indonesian kendang drums, and viola. The catholics that's "catholic" as in "universal" have been bringing together jazz and World musics since their inception in 1991. Ambon is their most ambitious project to date. The album opens with an arrangement in Ambonese wind-band style of a hymn Stuart wrote in the 1930s, "Christ The King". "Ambiont Jungle" is a sound-picture of the unfamiliar impressions confronting the prisoners, while "Island String Band Suite" is a suite within a suite, inspired by camp concerts on makeshift instruments Stuart made a bass from a chest holding bully beef tins. Against Hawaiian guitar, James Eccles gives Stuart's viola its first outing since the 1930s. Stuart became a role model for his nephew, and Lloyd's father would often recall the diary entry describing a 30th birthday present of two fried eggs, precious for starving prisoners hence "The Good Egg" in the Island Suite. Against another hymn, "Blessed Holy Spirit", Swanton reads from the diary, including a reminder of the world the prisoners left behind: "Saturday 6 March, 1943: Straightened nails all day. What a contrast to playing tennis on a Saturday afternoon". "Top Brass", for broken and hybrid instruments, satirises the leadership that led to the tragic debacle. The mournful work song "The Long Carry" memorialises a grim exercise of forced labour. Prominent in the band, Sandy Evans has a gorgeously distinctive sound on soprano and tenor saxophone, while Lloyd Swanton is one of the most propulsive, resourceful bassists on the planet. As a composer he draws on a diverse range of styles, unified by the strong, emotionally affecting programme, making Ambon a listening experience that's hard to forget. Andy Hamilton The Wire

Code: BUG010
Price: £20.00