7 reviews of my debut album – Astral Pleasures – 2008/9


08/01/2009 Kenny Mathieson: The List

Issie Barratt’s debut recording directing a 20-piece orchestra is brimming over with arresting music. A composer and conductor pushing at the boundaries of conventional big band music, Barratt has a considerable reputation in jazz education circles, but her work as a composer deserves to be much better known. Barratt’s imaginative and often striking ensemble arrangements are superbly played by the band. The six compositions are all given extended treatments (‘Dublin Soundscape’ stretches over 20-minutes, but readily maintains interest), and the soloists – including trumpeter Anders Bergcrantz and saxophonist Mark Lockheart – make pungent contributions. The great Mike Gibbs produced the session, adding further kudos to an already highly recommendable project.


01/01/2009 Fred Dellar: Mo Jo Magazine

Joyous jazz, of the complex, extended kind. Elisabeth “Issie” Barratt is a remarkable composer, conductor, arranger and baritone sax player. Astral Pleasures – five lengthy pieces plus Oodley Groove the shorter because it’s a mere eight and a half minutes – can only enhance her formidable reputation as a jazz writer. The band here is huge, featuring over a score of the UK’s most creative musicians. Produced by Mike Gibbs, great swathes of sounds with complex time changes, a bit Gil Evans here, a mite Stravinsky there, form the game plan. The record is at once breathtaking yet difficult to comprehend in its scope: highlights include a 20- minute Dublin Soundscape and Hold Down The Moon, on which sax-player Mark Lockheart and ever-inventive trumpeter Steve Waterman musically portray a couple making it down the aisle.


19/12/2008 John Walters: The Guardian

Issie Barratt is a proper, grown-up jazz composer, like Maria Schneider, Gary McFarland or Mike Gibbs (who produces this album). Her vehicle is the jazz orchestra, extended by instruments such as french horn, flute (Rowland Sutherland) and harp, plus a beefed-up rhythm section with vibes, percussion and outstanding guitarist Mike Outram. This album comprises six substantial compositions that give her talented soloists plenty to get stuck into while showcasing her brilliant orchestrations. When some moments show a post-modern tendency to cram everything together, Barratt’s compositional backbone keeps everything in excellent shape. And if some pieces seem wildly ambitious – the 20-minute tone poem Dublin Soundscape; the exuberant incandescence of the title track – they’re not vain ambitions. Barratt has complete mastery of the orchestra, and hits all her targets. Astral Pleasures is a plum pudding of an album, packed with riches, as if Barratt were anxious she would never be heard from again. No chance of that!


01/12/2008 Selwyn Harris: Jazzwise Magazine

What sounds like a title of an Alice Coltrane album turns out to be much more down to earth: bandleader Issie Barratt chose it because she likes nothing better than a bottle of Chablis or two under a starry summer sky. Barratt is well-regarded by many as being a gifted leader, composer and arranger of large ensembles, but this is a role that has often been secondary to her prominent position as an inspirational jazz educator at Trinity College of Music. Produced by the estimable British band leader Mike Gibbs, Barratt skilfully touches all bases of contemporary big band jazz over six extended pieces without losing the thread, switching between sections that draw from Strawinsky neo-classicism, jazz-rock (spearheaded by guitarist Mike Outram), Ellington through to smaller group free improv or Debussy-like reveries. Along the way we are treated to some edge of the seat stuff from her fine 20-piece ensemble. Barratt’s arrangements are full of zip, yet characterized by pungent, often angular themes and instrumental voicings. It’s contemporary big band jazz that refuses to lie still and behave itself and that’s to be encouraged.


01/12/2008 Brian Priestley: JazzUK

Composer-arranger Barratt is so far largely known to insides, including educators and students. Her debut album, however, should by rights change that limited perception in a major way. The big band assembled here, with production assistance from Mike Gibbs, is stuffed with strong soloists such as Mark Lockheart, Liam Noble and Steve Waterman. But the main impact is from some highly original writing, often texturally dense but far from somber and not lending itself to helpful comparisons. You might find the odd echo of Gibbs, the large-scale arrangements of Bob Moses or Jaco Pastorius, hints of the later Gil Evans and Mingus, but these longish compositions are like nothing else. Although one was a commission, there’s a pointed credit that the album itself is “funded by Issie Barratt”


30/11/2008 Phil Johnson: The Independent

In contrast to the big band orthodoxy of Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza – all woodwind sighs and whispers – composer Barratt has a refreshingly heavy touch.
Her Mingus-like density of swing makes even Turnage’s ‘Blood on the Floor’ look sedate, with the axe-heroics of Mike Outram and drummer Simon Pearson rendering Scofield and Erskine almost wussy by comparison. Recorded brilliantly (at Angel Studios), it’s powerful stuff.
Pick of the Album: ‘Eva Naim, Mega Supreme’: smack, bang, pow


09/11/2008 Dave Gelly: The Observer

Issie Barratt is an award-winning jazz composer whose work has been performed all over the place, but she’s little known outside the smallish world of forward-looking jazz lovers. This is her debut album, produced by another composer, the revered Mike Gibbs, which should cause a few ears to prick up. Deploying a 21-piece orchestra, including harp, French horn and other exotica, she presents five long and, frankly, programmatic pieces. If you read the notes and listen carefully, you really can picture scenes or follow a storyline. The orchestration is simply breathtaking and the soloists fill out the picture beautifully.


Review of premier performance of Meinrad Iten Suite

– Switzerland – June 2007 

“Aber Sie ist frei von akademischem Staub, shöpft aus einer frischen Empfindung und ist unkompliziert gebaut. Das macht sie geeignet fur knappe impressionistische Skizzen……Die vier Musiker widmeten sich allen Stücken mit Können, Spiellust and Hingebe” Andreas Nievergelt, Zuger Zeitung. 


Revew of premier performance of Transient Times

– Philharmonia Orchestra – 2002

“Distinctive and memorable…..  A rousing and heart felt 2 minute standing ovation from a full house at the De Montford Hall”  Leicester Mercury


Somehow with the passage of time –

Recorded by Delta Sax Quartet – 2007


“Somehow with the Passage of Time”: Single track for Delta Sax Quartet’s album and UK tour ‘Dedicated to you but you weren’t listening’: (interpretations of Soft Machine tracks by seven different contemporary composers) Released on June Moon records

“Rich contemporary classicism” All About Jazz Nov 2007

“Mixing unapologetic experimentalism with yearning English pastoral” Independent on Sunday

“ It is refreshing to hear such an intelligent reinvention” J Walters Guardian


Still while waiting –

Performance at Leeds International Jazz Conference 2005

“The eccentric Don Ellis element came from Issie Barratt” John Fordham, The Guardian

“Issie Barratt’s Still While Waiting – also conducted by its composer – provided welcome Mingus-like mayhem” James Griffiths, The Guardian