With his Grande Família project, Marrow has created a spectacular new ensemble that hopefully he will continue to write for.

Self Release in support of World Child Cancer

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Billy Marrows – guitar/baritone guitar and compositions; Teresa Macedo Ferreira – viola; Dijan Mbanu – flute; Jonas Mbanu – electric bass; Angus Bayley – piano; Gustavo Clayton Marucci – clarinet and bass clarinet; Chris Williams – alto sax; Tom Ridout – soprano, tenor and clarinet; Mike Soper – trumpet; Olli Martin – trombone; Anna Drysdale – French horn; Greg Sanders – shaker and producer

Recorded 27 June & 27 August 2023

This is a very personal album for guitarist and composer, Billy Marrows and one that carries with it loss and sadness. The recording is dedicated to and in memory of his mother Penny, who died of pancreatic cancer in August 2023 and sadly did not get to hear the finished recording.

The genesis of the album came about when Billy, his girlfriend Theresa and his cousins performed at a family gathering in April last year shortly after Penny’s diagnosis. As she enjoyed the music so much the guitarist decided to record the album and release it and donate all proceeds from sales to the World Child Cancer charity that helps support children with cancer around the globe, and especially those most in need.

The resulting album is a triumph, and features Marrows’s new band Grande Família and original music is indeed a wonderful tribute to Penny and a celebration of family. There is nothing but joy and happiness that is conveyed throughout, and the arrangements prepared by Marrows are rich in colour and detail for the various instrumental groupings presented.

The music features the 12-piece chamber jazz group that refuses to be confined with any single genre, and whether playing as one large ensemble or smaller groups the music has its own distinctive sound. This is in part due to the unusual instrumentation that is sometimes deployed and certainly in Marrows’s at times unconventional writing.

This is not a criticism, but a virtue. So much so, that on first hearing I was not sure to make of the album. It is much to Marrows’s credit that he feeds the listener enough on the first hearing to want to repeat the experience, and on each further playing of the album more and more is revealed.

The arrangements are cleverly conceived, each seemingly to reveal little snippets of ideas that only come together in all their elegance as one becomes familiar with the guitarist’s tonal palette and sense of structure that is integral to each of the ensemble pieces.

The sheer depth of the writing is heard to wonderful effect on ‘Nights Are Drawing In’ and the use of trombone and French horn, along with bass clarinet give a startingly fresh sound in the lower registers of the ensemble.

‘A Grande Família’ has some lovely writing for flute, accompanied by subtle shadings from the horns and Billy’s sparse guitar lines, and the use of shaker and voices is a stroke of genius, and the use of brass and strings on ‘L’Heroïsme’ is a delight given additional gravitas by Tom Ridout’s tenor saxophone.

The album is bookended by two solo guitar pieces, the title track which Penny got to hear, and an exquisite and touching reading of ‘Shenondoah’ which sadly she did not. Marrows’s had also written several other solo vignettes for guitar that are interspersed throughout the album, each of which gives an indication of the compositional process that can be heard in the ensemble pieces.

With his Grande Família project, Marrow has created a spectacular new ensemble that hopefully he will continue to write for. However, in closing I cannot but direct attention to ‘February (anjo) and a touching duet for guitar and viola and performed by Billy and his girlfriend Teresa.