Girl groups playing popular classics seem to be a dime a dozen lately, from Bond to 12 Girls Band, but tenThing brings something new to the mix. Instead of allowing marketing teams to spice everything up with sex appeal and rock and roll elements, this group of 10 female brass players, led by trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, simply focuses on the music. Hailing from Norway, tenThing nods toward their heritage on this CD with three short pieces by Edvard Grieg. But they venture a bit further afield in time and space, from Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, to selections from Astor Piazzola's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. It is all beautifully played, and there's not a synthesizer or drum set to be heard.
Rather than the large ensembles familiar to American brass players, consisting of the orchestral brass of 3 or 4 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, and tuba and complemented with euphonium and percussion, tenThing's instrumentation of is a more modest size common in Europe and Japan, of three trumpets, four trombones, and one each of flugelhorn, French horn and tuba. As a trombonist myself I have heard a lot of brass playing, and I am very favorably impressed with tenThing. They are capable of expressive subtlety and biting power, and have an excellent blend of sound among the various instruments and performers. Their ensemble playing is spot on throughout--just listen to a bit of Albeniz's Asturias and you'll hear what I mean. It's a piece we usually hear on guitar, and I love the way the arrangement translates the repeated plucked notes to brass. All of the arrangements are apparently by Jarle Storlokken, who operates with a very sensitive ear and a delicate touch. My only criticism is the programming's lack of adventure--these are all popular classics with a light touch, beautifully played, but there's nothing that approaches the profound. Which is not to say it's superficial, but I'd love to hear this group take their collective gloves off and bite into something meatier, to mix a metaphor. Piazzola's the most current and interesting composer on the disc, and there is so much more fascinating music out there. But maybe I am just being a curmudgeon, and I should be satisfied with the lovely performances on this disc!