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Jazz International would like to thank everyone who has attended its events, and also for the support and encouragement we have received from so many people. The funding from the Scottish Arts Council - now Creative Scotland - for the 2009/2010 period enabled us to further develop a rich and varied programme of jazz and jazz-related artists performing in Scotland. For now, however, the events are being staged totally independently, making your support all the more valued.

The reviews are in no particular order - it's just to provide a snap shot of what's taken place. We will add to those listed below as we stage an increasing number of events. Also, if there are any artists you would particularly like to see included in our future programming, do please get in touch.

We look forward to welcoming you to forthcoming concerts.

Todd Gordon, Jazz International


z
previously featured artists
 
Brass Jaw
4 December 2011
   

Brass Jaw

City Halls, Glasgow

The Scotsman
***

You’ve got to hand it to Brass Jaw. This Glasgow-based jazz quartet is still in its infancy but it has already established itself as an award-winning outfit – and one which has a loyal following. Which would explain why the Recital Room was packed out on a particularly miserable Sunday night in December.

The Scottish jazz world’s answer to the Fab Four seemed determined to leave no listener unconverted: after kicking off with a slow and solemn Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas they exploded into life, like a New Orleans funeral band, with a freewheeling and dynamic take on Comin’ Home Baby, which not only created an instant party atmosphere but set out the template for the way this unique band works. Baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin – a one-man rhythm section – is the glue that holds the sound together, while his bandmates, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and saxophonists Paul Towndrow and Konrad Wiszniewski, bring colour and theatricality to the proceedings – along with a hint of Marx Brothers-like mayhem.

On tune after tune – notably such funky numbers as Joe Zawinal’s Walk Tall and Horace Silver’s Senor Blues – in the first half of Sunday’s concert, it was impossible to resist the infectious joie-de-vivre emanating from this lively band. During the second set, a series of samey-sounding and occasionally rather turgid original compositions threatened to sap the party spirit but a joyous Sunny, played as an encore while the group snaked its way around the room, ensured that the night ended on a high.

 

Alison Kerr

 
Carol Kidd sings Gershwin
18 June 2010
   

Carol Kidd sings Gershwin

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

The Herald
***
**

Class is another one of those words which is completely over used and demeaned in the modern lexicon. However, it can be accurately deployed when describing this show by one of the world’s truly great jazz singers.

At four feet eleven inches in her stocking soles, Ms Kidd was a diminutive figure on stage at the GRCH. But her voice, honed to perfection over the years, filled the place.
For this opening night of Glasgow’s International Jazz Festival, Kidd and her superb band featured the songs of George and Ira Gershwin. Despite the sheer familiarity of some of the material, her interpretation brought a freshness to it which was quite magical.

Our Love Is Here To Stay, It Ain’t Necessarily So, A Foggy Day In London Town and But Not For Me were amongst the highlights. The latter was introduced as being one of Judy Garland’s finest moments, but this version ran her close. There were some endearingly scatty moments as Ms Kidd tried to remember various song intros, but when she delivered such glorious versions of Someone To Watch Over Me and her encore, Summertime, all was forgiven.

A triumphant homecoming for one of Scotland’s most underrated talents.

 

Stuart Morrison

 

 

 
 
Swinging The Beatles!
8 October 2010
   

The Ryan Quigley Big Band and Orchestra conducted by Brian Byrne

with special guests: Justin Currie, Jacqui Dankworth, Julie Fowlis, Horse, Todd Gordon, Carol Kidd, Eddi Reader

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

The Scotsman
****

It’s testimony to the far-reaching influence and appeal of The Beatles that such a terrifically diverse line-up of singers joined forces to pay tribute to them on Friday evening. And it was fascinating to watch them united in their infectious enthusiasm for the songs of Lennon and McCartney.

The concert got off to a shaky start, however. Whether it was the positioning of the musicians on the stage - the strings on the left, the Ryan Quigley Big Band on the right, conductor/pianist Brian Byrne sitting in the middle, face visible to the instrumentalists but not to the singers, unless they (and he) turned round - or a dodgy mincrophone, the vocals on the opening songs were washed out by the brass section. Only when Julie Fowlis took centre stage (as opposed to over at one side as the others had been) for a beautiful Nowhere Man did the concert begin to take off.

As you would expect, some numbers worked better than others - but those that worked were terrific, and the duets were a particular treat. Justin Currie and Horse McDonald proved to be a superb duo, especially on a vivid and movingly performed She’s Leaving Home. Jacqui Dankworth and Eddi Reader’s Fool on the Hill was another highlight; two very different voices producing something magical.

Of the solo numbers, Carol Kidd’s Yesterday and Jacqui Dankworth’s utterly mesmerising Eleanor Rigby were stand-outs. It’s just a shame the singers didn’t have a band that was as A-list sounding as they were.

 

Alison Kerr

 

The Herald

***

On the eve of what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday they came to celebrate his and his band’s legacies.

The Beatles’ consistency was such that there are few duds in their canon, so the songs were always going to be good. With big band arrangements and string orchestrations that stayed largely faithful to the original intentions, emphasising a few curves and punches here and there, and were played with superb judgement, the pressure was all on the singers.

And a mixed success these were, too, with contributions from Eddi Reader and Julie Fowlis, who reprised her Gaelic translation of Blackbird to Ross Hamilton’s acoustic guitar accompaniment, and a 95-strong choir drawn from local schools who shared a lusty Let it Be with band-leader Ryan Quigley’s trumpet solo. Horse MacDonald seemed a tad underprepared and not quite in synch with the arrangement of In My Life but she redeemed herself with a fine reading of She’s Leaving Home, aided by Justin Currie who despite his apparent aloofness, always sounds engaged with his material.

The concert’s promoter and emcee, Todd Gordon, gallantly stepped in for the absent Sandi Thom, singing in her key and wearing what looked like John Lennon’s jacket circa The Beatles’ Hamburg period. But the stars of the show were the jazz belles, Jacqui Dankworth and Carol Kidd. Dankworth was completely in command of the song that everyone wanted to sing, Here, There and Everywhere, and Kidd’s beautiful, voice-of-experience version of The Long and Winding Road was possibly only eclipsed by the psychedelic, wonderfully controlled rammy that the band blew on Strawberry Fields Forever.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Paul Harrison Quartet plus Alan Barnes: The Hospitalfield Suite
24 October 2010
 

Paul Harrison Quartet plus Alan Barnes

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
****

Hospitalfield House in Arbroath is a handsome and historic building, if an unlikely setting for one of Scotland’s longest-running jazz gigs. So it was entirely fitting that pianist Paul Harrison should respond to Hospitalfield House promoter Alan Steadman’s commission to celebrate 20 years of jazz at the venue with a handsome suite that tied in jazz history with some thoroughly modern ideas.

As his work with the constantly enquiring Trianglehead has confirmed, Harrison is a musician and composer who puts much imagination into sounds as well as note choices. One of the many peaks in a consistently engrossing series of eight movements, which looked to the Scottish tradition as well as the Ellington, Monk and Blue Note legacies, was Harrison’s interpretation of the legend of Tam Tyrie, a piper who, smuggling mythology has it, sheltered in a cave near Arbroath.

Pipers disappearing into caves are a common source of haunting tunes in Gaelic lore and Harrison continued this phenomenon with a stealthy trombone melody, played beautifully by Phil O’Malley and given extra eerie presence by a laptop gizmo processing and echoing it as an electronic storm brewed in the distance.

O’Malley’s front line partner, Alan Barnes, brought his own quicksilver imagination to Harrison’s music, improvising sweetly brisk and apposite clarinet lines in an Ellingtonian duet with Harrison and somehow flying with complete sensitivity on alto saxophone elsewhere.

If the concert was primarily about new music, albeit drawn on strong roots, there was room too for spontaneous readings of jazz standards, with Harrison’s superb trio take on Autumn in New York and an exhilaratingly paced Our Delight proving especially satisfying earfuls.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Tokyo Trio: Tina May, Nikki Iles, Karen Sharp
6 June 2010
   

Tokyo Trio

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
***

Duke Ellington described jazz as the sound of surprise, so it was apt that The Tokyo Trio should play his Creole Love Call as they unexpectedly morphed into a clarinet trio and returned to the instruments they played at school for an encore.

The trio’s spokeswoman, singer Tina May, had had to live through the previous two hours hoping that the sound of surprise wouldn’t be a rogue braying note brought on by the laryngitis that had caused her to seek emergency medication en route. May, though, is a trouper and if she had to modify her approach here and there, it didn’t detract from a performance that presented familiar songs in often unfamiliar settings.

In fact, her temporary huskiness, which didn’t quite amount to the basso profundo she warned us about, leant a certain added allure to her always clearly enunciated and very personal singing. And if her wordless improvisations weren’t quite as adventurous as they might otherwise have been, they were still a sure musical link between pianist Nikki Iles’s confidently swinging sense of enquiry and saxophonist Karen Sharp’s soft-toned understatement, which can turn quickly into something altogether tougher, as was the case on Body and Soul.

They were, quite literally, making the concert up as they went along, giving I’m Old Fashioned a new, gospel-inspired skin and taking I Only Have Eyes for You at a faster clip than usual. Amid all the spontaneity, though, there was a tremendous fluency as a unit that made the I Got Rhythm variations magnetic and turned May’s Lazy Afternoon into an occasion requiring ice for more than the ginger beer.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Jazzpool NRW: Channel Crossing
23 May 2010
 

Jazzpool: Jarry Singla, Wolfgang Schmidtke, Gunnar Plümer, Tom Arthurs & Julian Argüelles

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
***

The sight of pianist Jarry Singla placing assorted percussion instruments on the Steinway’s strings would give many a hall manager a nervous fit. As well as having a gently melodic touch on the keyboard, however, Singla is a benign, tidy experimenter and his strategic positioning of cowbell, tambourine et al produced a quietly hypnotic mechanical sound at the heart of the Anglo-German sextet he brought over for this Jazz International presentation.

Such attention to detail, apparent also in his exacting lines for bass guitar and the very precise drum part that cued in the frontline on another piece, seems typical of Singla’s approach and while the various ideas and contrasts he brought into play didn’t always coalesce, there were many things to admire and enjoy in his music as a whole.

Not the least of these was the sound of the aforementioned frontline, which primarily focused on a tenor saxophone, flugelhorn and bass clarinet configuration that was almost choir-like in the way its instruments’ “voices” interwove and shaped their harmonies.

Tom Arthurs, playing flugelhorn –and when the music demanded a more penetrative sound, trumpet –particularly caught the ear. Occasionally reminiscent of Kenny Wheeler in his leaps from one register to another, he combines a warm tone with a clear sense of melody and a searching improvising style.

His witty conversation with Wolfgang Schmidtke on bass clarinet and melodic interchanges with Julian Arguelles on tenor were further highlights in a set that contained elements of folk music – a touch of klezmer here, something from Singla’s Indian heritage there – as well as at one point touching on a Mingus-like blues.

 

Rob Adams

 

 
Christine Tobin & Liam Noble: Tapestry Unravelled
13 & 14 February 2010
 

Christine Tobin & Liam Noble

The Lot, Edinburgh

The Herald
***
*

How do you interpret an album as well known to so many people as Carole King’s multi-million selling Tapestry?

There’s the deconstruct/reconstruct method that would turn out songs bearing a passing resemblance to King’s blueprint. Or in these days of X-Factor karaoke, especially with a soul classic like (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman onboard, hiding the tune in a fog of melisma might win votes.

For Christine Tobin, the answer was simpler: just sing the songs as intended and with a vocal timbre as naturally winsome and singular as hers, the result is something at once familiar and captivatingly fresh. Tobin didn’t go into detail about the reasoning behind her forthcoming Tapestry Unravelled CD; the original is an album with close ties to her sister Deirdre, who died last year. But her connection with songs such as the eternally optimistic Beautiful and the more vulnerable Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow was obvious, and with Liam Noble’s piano accompaniments subtly emphasising the gospel flavour in much of King’s writing, the overall mood was decidedly intimate and personal.

Being a jazz singer, Tobin likes to scat, which she did creatively and convincingly, and Noble’s powers of invention included more oblique references, particularly in his solo piano arrangement of Smack-water Jack.

Neither musician’s extemporisations strayed far from the songs’ essence, and even the supporting material, including two beautifully expressed original songs and a vibrant medley comprising Milton Nascimento’s Ponta de Areia and Steve Swallow’s She Was Young, sounded as if guided by the same impetus that caused Tobin to sing A Natural Woman with such soulful dignity.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 

Daryl Sherman Trio with Nigel Clark & Roy Percy

+ guest appearance by Todd Gordon

19 December 2009
   

Daryl Sherman

City Halls, Glasgow

Jazz Matters

A SWELL PARTY

Daryl Sherman, the Manhattan-based singer and pianist who made her Glasgow debut in the City Halls Recital Room on Sunday, must have tripped back to her hotel a very happy lady. Why? Because she had the most enthusiastic response to her performance that I think I’ve seen at that venue.

Sherman has a girlish, Blossom Dearie-esque voice which is not every jazz fan’s cup of Earl Grey (it didn’t do anything for the aficionada sitting next to me – at least at the outset), but she also has impeccable taste – which is a rare attribute these days.

Not only was her choice of material first-class but the atmosphere she created also distinguished her gig from most others. It was relaxed and fun, but there was no sense that the concert had been thrown together – as can often be the case when a visiting soloist throws his or her lot in with local musicians.

Mind you, Sherman had selected the ideal local musicians for her easygoing style and penchant for the less  well-thumbed pages of the Great American Songbook. She really couldn’t have asked for better accompaniment than she got from bassist Roy Percy and, especially, the great guitarist Nigel Clark – both of whom gamely, and stylishly, joined her on a string of songs which they had probably never had call to play before.

Flying Down to Rio (from the Astaire-Rogers movie of the same name), Getting To Know You (The King and I) and Jeepers Creepers (from Goin’ Places)  were all ensemble treats featuring Sherman’s vocal and pianistic talents.

On How Insensitive, she stepped into Carol Kidd’s shoes by duetting memorably with Nigel Clark. The results were sublime – Sherman’s vocals (which sounded deeper when she was singing in what I assume was Portuguese) and Clark’s sensitive guitar playing were a perfect match.

As were the vocal duets with guest artist Todd Gordon – playful versions of Fly Me to the Moon and Manhattan, both dished up with rarely-performed verses.

By the end of the night, Sherman had made herself more than a few new fans – and I think you could safely say she’ll be back.

 

Alison Kerr

www.jazzmatters.wordpress.com

 

 
Konrad Wiszniewski Quartet + special guests, Ryan Quigley & Paul Towndrow
19 December 2009
   

Konrad Wiszniewski Quartet

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
***
*

Christmas jazz concerts - as with any musical genre - can get bogged down with sentiment. But saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski, encouraged to take a seasonal theme by promoters Jazz International, struck just the right balance, opening with well known Yuletide numbers and operating a business as usual policy in between.

If the meat in this sandwich contained a tribute to his grandfather, a groover called - and I may be guessing the spelling incorrectly - Santa Andre, and the spiritually inflected JC, there was an element of handy coincidence about the titles and derivation of the tunes that became vehicles for Wiszniewski and his band’s freewheeling explorations.

Wiszniewski is an unfailingly compelling improviser. He has a tone that sometimes harks back to the classic early years of the tenor saxophone in jazz and a style of phrasing that owes something to latter day heroes Michael Brecker and Tommy Smith, and yet in his very melodic way, he constructs solos that are very much his own and have an almost vocal quality. Indeed, his reading of The Christmas Song, developing its images of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, might not unreasonably have been described as “Bing-like”.

He had an ideal companion in pianist Paul Harrison, whose support, alongside the creatively muscular Michael Janisch on double bass and the effervescent drummer Stu Ritchie, was subtly leading and whose soloing had energy, great depth of ideas and a beautifully lyrical touch. When trumpeter Ryan Quigley joined in for the second half, he added a third very tuneful voice as well as complementing Wiszniewski perfectly in the spontaneously arranged sequences.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Stewart Forbes & The David Newton Trio
21 February 2010
 

Stewart Forbes & The David Newton Trio

City Halls, Glasgow

The Sunday Mail
***
**

This was an exhilarating set from Forbes and the trio who played a great mix of standards, ballads and blues. Every member produced a truly individual sound.

From pianist David Newton’s great straight-ahead phrasing to Stewart Forbes’ always singing lines, the sweet groove of bassist Brian Shiels and Alyn Cosker’s ever-explosive drumming complemented the style beautifully, and it’s very difficult to fault the performance on any level.

The great subtleties in Forbes’ playing make him a cut above. This was particularly on the group’s rendition of Round Midnight, which began with a tasteful solo introduction by the alto saxophonist. Likewise, on the two numbers which Forbes left to the trio, Newton, Shiels and Cosker’s virtuosic playing was never convoluted and always refined.

An inspired evening from four of Scotland’s best improvising musicians.

 

Declan Forde

 

 

 
Brian Kellock & Julian Argüelles
6 & 7 February 2010
 

Brian Kellock & Julian Argüelles

The Lot, Edinburgh

The Herald
***
*

There will be many tributes to Sir John Dankworth over the next few days and weeks and although such things shouldn’t be judged competitively, it’s hard to imagine a homage more movingly expressed than the one Julian Argüelles played here.

The saxophonist is close to the Dankworth family, as a member of Alec Dankworth’s trio and Spanish Accents group, and his reading of Dedicated To You conveyed a depth of feeling that was clearly personal. It was beautifully done, with Argüelles creating a poignant, hymn-like effect from the last notes of All The Things You Are and using circular breathing to continue the saxophone’s call while singing an anguished counterpoint into his tenor that slowly unfolded into the familiar melody that John Coltrane had appropriated back in the early 1960s.

If Argüelles and Brian Kellock had played nothing else, few would have felt short-changed but the show must go on philosophy is as much a part of the Dankworths’ make-up as jazz itself and if other ballads, notably You Don’t Know What Love Is, also showed a certain emotional fragility on Argüelles’ part. Kellock had arrived with a truckload of ideas and was intent on pouring them through the piano keys.

Kellock’s invention on his tender high register arpeggios alongside Argüelles on Dedicated, and on the elastic tempoed Everything I Love and the strictly observed sprint through Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop, was scintillating.

 

Rob Adams

 

Brian Kellock & Julian Argüelles

The Lot, Edinburgh

The Scotsman
***
*

Revisiting their much-lauded collaboration on 2008's Nine Mile Burn Sessions album, pianist Brian Kellock and saxophonist Julian Argüelles delivered a delectable set of standards-based fare, in which their continued ability to surprise and amuse each other, long acquainted as they are, and five dates into their current tour, wasn't the least of the treats on offer.

The main attraction, though, was the endlessly spontaneous, instinctual yet masterly interplay – at once a duet, a dialogue, a debate and a duel – born of that mutual familiarity, which catalysed their superb individual prowess.

The centrepiece standout in the first half began with a wonderfully insouciant, sophisticated spin through Jerome Kern's All the Things You Are, with Kellock's quicksilver runs gliding and pirouetting around Argüelles's teasing melody, before a bold, near-silent segue into a positively gut-wrenching (in a good way) Dedicated to You – dedicated on this occasion to the newly late John Dankworth.

"Enough said," as Kellock put it, having made this brief tribute once the applause subsided – and enough certainly had been said by Argüelles' extraordinary outpourings over the preceding minutes, plumbing his own and his instrument's depths to sound by turns like a didgeridoo, a barking dog, a banshee screech and pure molten sorrow; by turns primal and lyrical, raging and sublime.

Yet more subtle emotional complexities were explored later on in You Don't Know What Love Is, in which the two players brilliantly teased out every ambivalent nuance contained in the title, once more underlining their prodigiously fruitful affinity.

 

Sue Wilson

 

 
Dan Berglund's Tonbruket
13 March 2010
   

Dan Berglund

The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

The Scotsman
***

Given that the leader was part of one of the most successful units in contemporary jazz, the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, and that they record for a noted jazz label, it is inevitable that Tonbruket would be filed under "jazz". When we reach their music, though, the accuracy of that categorisation is questionable – there is little directly attributable to jazz, including much in the way of real improvisation.

What they are is an instrumental group with a wide-ranging sonic palette courtesy of multi-instrumental proclivities and a musical sensibility that is rooted as much in rock as jazz, and takes in various shades of folk and country along the way.

The opening section of their Scottish debut was a little desultory. Their material is sparse, based on simple melodies and riffs, and they tend to rely on creating either raucous or very delicate textural effects around that simple core, drawing on the resources of Martin Hederos's electric keyboards, piano and violin, and Johan Lindström's range of guitars, including the evocative pedal steel.

An impromptu break brought about by a power failure on stage turned out to have a beneficial effect – they seemed to take the energy level of their music up a notch or two in the rest of the show.

 

Kenny Mathieson

 

Dan Berglund

The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

The Herald

***

Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket is aptly named in more ways than one.

The former double bassist with the hugely successful jazz trio E.S.T. chose Tonbruket because it translates as sound factory or workshop, and there’s something of the workshop – in the 1960s it might have been described as an arts lab – about the set-up of the instruments and the way the musicians go about applying pump organ, violin, glockenspiel and various guitars to the music.

Tonbruket is also pronounced, if you apply the American hard “t”, as “Tune-brew-kit” and again that rings true as the music evolves as if being formed in situ. Sometimes the tunes could actually do with a bit more brewing. In a way, though, this simplicity, juxtaposed with more boisterous, heavy-hitting themes, is part of the Swedish quartet’s charm.

Influences wafted in and out throughout a set that was interrupted by a sound problem, resulting in an unscheduled interval that both broke the mood and drew attention to the shortness of the planned performance. The ghosts of The Beatles and early Pink Floyd appeared in familiar-sounding descending bass runs and chord sequences. The economy of Erik Satie has been applied to more than one melody and guitar heroes from Hank Marvin to Bill Frisell, the latter especially during the encore with its dusty plains slide guitar, sprang to mind.

If, ultimately, this sound factory represents a works in progress, there are enough signs to suggest that, given more time, Berglund & co can deliver something altogether stronger and more substantial and it’ll be interesting to hear what they come up with for their second album.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Konrad Wiszniewski Quartet + special guests, Ryan Quigley & Paul Towndrow
19 December 2009
   

Konrad Wiszniewski Quartet

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
***
*

Christmas jazz concerts - as with any musical genre - can get bogged down with sentiment. But saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski, encouraged to take a seasonal theme by promoters Jazz International, struck just the right balance, opening with well known Yuletide numbers and operating a business as usual policy in between.

If the meat in this sandwich contained a tribute to his grandfather, a groover called - and I may be guessing the spelling incorrectly - Santa Andre, and the spiritually inflected JC, there was an element of handy coincidence about the titles and derivation of the tunes that became vehicles for Wiszniewski and his band’s freewheeling explorations.

Wiszniewski is an unfailingly compelling improviser. He has a tone that sometimes harks back to the classic early years of the tenor saxophone in jazz and a style of phrasing that owes something to latter day heroes Michael Brecker and Tommy Smith, and yet in his very melodic way, he constructs solos that are very much his own and have an almost vocal quality. Indeed, his reading of The Christmas Song, developing its images of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, might not unreasonably have been described as “Bing-like”.

He had an ideal companion in pianist Paul Harrison, whose support, alongside the creatively muscular Michael Janisch on double bass and the effervescent drummer Stu Ritchie, was subtly leading and whose soloing had energy, great depth of ideas and a beautifully lyrical touch. When trumpeter Ryan Quigley joined in for the second half, he added a third very tuneful voice as well as complementing Wiszniewski perfectly in the spontaneously arranged sequences.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Empirical
14 November 2009
 

Empirical

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
****

Embracing Eric Dolphy has proved a masterstroke for Empirical. In taking up the cause of one of jazz’s most original and creative – but ultimately tragic – forces, the young London-based quartet have forged a music of character and maturity that celebrates Dolphy’s memory and follows in his footsteps without merely imitating or reheating his ideas.
 
Even when they’re playing Dolphy’s compositions, such as the staccato, slightly awkward gated Hat & Beard (written for and in audible homage to Thelonious Monk) and the jagged edged Gazzelloni, there’s a sense of renewal, as if a light has been switched on to show something familiar from a different angle.
 
Their own pieces thrive not just on the strong melodic themes that give them a soulful sincerity but in the imagination and dynamic range they employ. There’s an element of storytelling, in notes rather than words, at work, too. Opening with Nathaniel Facey’s alto saxophone and Tom Farmer’s bowed double bass, A Bitter End for a Tender Giant conveyed both an elegiac quality in mourning Dolphy’s loss and, as Lewis Wright’s vibes and Shane Forbes’ drums arrived and Facey’s playing became more robust, anger at the hospital maltreatment that led to Dolphy, in a diabetic coma mistaken for a drug overdose, dying prematurely.
 
Overall, as the name of the album that carries it, Out ‘n’ In, suggests, this is jazz that flits between conventional, bluesy, beboppish form and freedom with seductive ease, played by musicians who are as alert to cues and the fine details of an arrangement as they are creative in their improvising. Where they go from here will be well worth keeping tabs on.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Paul Booth Quintet + special guest, Ingrid Jensen
6 December 2009
 

Paul Booth Sextet

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
***

It is tempting to imagine how Paul Booth’s group might sound a few more gigs into the tour they began in Glasgow on Sunday. The saxophonist from the north-east of England and his team gathered again (though bassist Mike Janisch was playing the music for the first time) six months on from recording the album Pathways, and there was a certain feeling of settling in, during the first set in particular. Even so, there was plenty to enjoy in what we heard.

As well as being a hugely talented and in-demand player both on tenor and soprano, Booth is developing into a really astute composer and arranger. He has a knack for strong, clean and instantly appealing melodies, supported by rhythm parts that add much punch, variety and definition - but what stood out among his own compositions (he also offered a sly reworking of Cole Porter’s I Love You) was the way he orchestrated saxophone, trumpet/flugelhorn and guitar lines to create impact larger than that of your average sextet.

He has also chosen his musicians well. Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen brings a beautifully phrased lyrical fluency to the front line’s improvisations, alongside Phil Robson’s concise, gutsy guitar invention, while drummer Dave Smith, working closely with Janisch, adds real dynamic vision.

It was pianist Phil Peskett, however, who stood out for me here. Despite playing an instrument with a rogue F-note that had absolutely no sense of occasion, he created solo after superbly crafted solo, displaying a touch that both fitted Booth’s compositions and took them on to another, always melodically insightful, plain.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Todd Gordon
12 December 2009
   

Todd Gordon

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
*****

Ol’ Blue Eyes’ birthday (his 94th - not even a nice round number) might seem a shaky peg for a Sinatra-themed concert but this clearly mattered not one jot to Glasgow punters on Saturday: such was the demand for tickets that a matinee performance was arranged when the evening show sold out.

Flying the flag for Frankie was Scots crooner Todd Gordon, who made his name with his Sinatra show but has developed his own distinctive style and following.

On Sinatra standard after Sinatra standard on Saturday, he conjured up the spirit of his hero - his casual elegance, his swagger, his tenderness - but artfully avoided the familiar hallmarks of the original recordings.

Last time Gordon stepped into Sinatra’s shoes, he had a big band backing him. On Saturday, he had a quartet - but it was no less effective. The group was able to evoke the well-kent arrangements of Nelson Riddle and company, but keep the music fresh and exciting.

That said, two of the stand-out songs were ballads which Gordon sang with only piano accompaniment: a spellbinding interpretation of It Was A Very Good Year and the dreamy High Society love song You’re Sensational.

Not that any of this seemed to impress the Three Scrooges in front of me - a trio of men who steadfastly refused to applaud throughout the show, and were undoubtedly making mental notes for a report to the Sinatra Purists’ club.

 

Alison Kerr

 

 

 
Judy Carmichael: Stride!
29 November 2009
   

Judy Carmichael: Stride!

City Halls, Glasgow

The Herald
*****

A touch of New York sparkle came to Glasgow when the vivacious pianist Judy Carmichael made her Scottish debut as part of Jazz International’s winter programme.


With her witty and engaging repartee, Carmichael had won her audience over before she even began playing, and it was clear from her fast-swinging, playful opener, Lulu’s Back in Town, that her sense of humour translated into her music.

Carmichael, who was nicknamed Stride by no less a jazz legend than Count Basie, has made a name for herself as a purveyor of this early style of jazz piano, but such numbers as an evocative, bluesy Lazy River and her own Boisdale Blues, which had a rollicking boogie-woogie section, demonstrated that she’s more than a one-trick pony.

It was her Earl Hines and Fats Waller-flavoured output which most delighted the crowd, and it was a treat to hear such rarely exhumed gems as Love Is Just Around The Corner, Christopher Columbus and Gladyse played with affection and panache.

 

Alison Kerr

 

 

 
Ari Hoenig Trio
10 December 2009
   

Ari Hoenig Trio

The Lot, Edinburgh

The Herald
****

Anyone witnessing Ari Hoenig in head shots only would be forgiven for thinking that he perpetually wreaking all sorts of havoc. The demonic expression on the New York-based drummer’s face as he addresses, first this cymbal, then the drumstick positioned across his snare drum, is really one of concentration, however.

Hoenig’s onstage relationship with his guitarist, Gilad Hekselman, is like a series of conversations. They’ll whisper to each other, sharing the pleasure of a melody. Or they’ll agree, often very animatedly. At times, they appear to be sharing a private joke that becomes public property as, with bassist Euan Burton anchoring the trio with simple certainty, the music moves from refined creativity to the sort of groove that would fill a dance floor.

The fact that such complete and absorbing transformations can occur on tunes as previously familiar as John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice or The Way You Look Tonight only adds to their appeal. Hoenig composes, too, using his kit as a front-line instrument on an alleged tribute to his pet fish that found him matching Hekselman’s lyrical fluidity with beautifully precise percussive punctuation.

Since the trio’s first visit last year, Hekselman has become quite the guitar hero, capable of articulating at least two entirely independent but complementary ideas simultaneously. Like Hoenig’s restless switching between sticks, brushes, elbows and hands, though, such trickery is placed entirely at the service of music that speaks clearly and excitingly, not just between its perpetrators, but to the listener especially.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 
Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet, with Euan Burton, Mark Ferber and Will Vinson
6 May 2009
   

Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet
The Lot, Edinburgh
The Herald
****

In its first year, Todd Gordon's Jazz International has given the Scottish jazz scene a breath of fresh air, bringing overdue attention to several neglected artists and introducing new - at least to local audiences - talents. Gordon's latest deserving cause may turn out to be the most significant so far, however.

Thirtysomething guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg has been making waves in New York for some time now - his latest CD is his sixth since he arrived back there from Florida - and it's easy to hear why guitar heroes including John Scofield have been raving about him.

With his eyes closed and his head pulled back in concentration, Kreisberg has the quality of appearing to play at 10 times the speed of thought. Every line is clearly and cleanly articulated and imbued with feeling, purpose and excitement. His chordal invention allows him to map out tunes and improvisations melodically and harmonically at the same time.

An obvious influence is Pat Metheny but Kreisberg has also gone back deep into jazz guitar history - and the jazz tradition in general as well as others, including Greek music - to create his own voice, as the one standard in a set of imaginatively developed original compositions, the ballad Spring is Here, emphatically underlined.

His quartet comprised young Scottish bassist Euan Burton, doing a fine supportive job with discretion and sureness of touch, London-born New York-based alto saxophonist (and occasional pianist) Will Vinson, and drummer Mark Ferber, who has that very New York discipline of driving the music along at near-zero decibels. The only thing missing was an audience but next time, the word on Kreisberg should be out.

 

Rob Adams

 
Juilan Siegel
14 January 2009
   

Julian Siegel Trio, with Greg Cohen & Joey Baron
City Halls, Glasgow
The Herald
****

It comes as no surprise to learn that both of London-based saxophonist Julian Siegel's New York rhythm team have played solo concerts. Double bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron bring an invention and superbly rounded musicality that reek of self-sufficiency but in a trio setting make for a quietly thrilling and immensely satisfying encounter.

Quiet is the operative term. The trio let the natural sounds of their instruments sing with the dynamics of a string quartet.
And I mean sing. Seldom can have so many drum solos featured in one concert with such pleasing results and such a variety of sounds and patterns.
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Siegel's background and musical upbringing were neatly summed up in Trent Lock, dedicated jointly to the river where he used to fish - unsuccessfully - and the almost ever-present sound of Eddie Lockjaw Davis's saxophone at home in Nottingham.

His original music for the trio can be both simple and wittily intricate, giving room for his own tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet - and in one instance all three - to progress with fluent clarity, and creating opportunities for all three players to engage in a bouncy, effervescent and emphatically spontaneous musical conversation. It was a conversation that they clearly enjoyed and the warm camaraderie onstage only increased the feeling of involvement felt in the audience.

 

Rob Adams

 
Janet Seidel Trio
24 May 2009
   

Janet Seidel Trio
City Halls, Glasgow
The Herald
****

Anyone who considered and rejected the notion of attending the Glasgow debut of Australian singer-pianist Janet Seidel on Sunday night should really be kicking themselves for missing out on an evening of first-class entertainment.

Seidel, who was accompanied by her regular guitarist Chuck Morgan and her bassist brother David Seidel, immediately won over the crowd at the Recital Room with her sunny disposition and exquisite, crystal clear vocals. The influences may be Blossom Dearie and Peggy Lee, but it was Julie London - albeit with a wider range and more power - whom Seidel's soft and gentle voice instantly brought to mind.

The theme of the evening was the late American singer-pianist Blossom Dearie, and Seidel lived up to her promise of performing Dearie's material - both her original songs and the standards she favoured - without imitating her.

Only on the her own tribute song Dear Blossom did she have a go at what she cleverly described as Dearie's "fairy voice" (thankfully, because a little of it goes a long way).
That said, Seidel clearly shares an impish sense of humour with her idol: this was a gig with lots of laughs, thanks to such witty songs as I'm Hip, Peel Me a Grape and, especially, the hilarious Pro Musica Antiqua. Other highlights included lovely versions of It Might As Well Be Spring (partly sung in French), a Mancini medley and Tea for Two.

Seidel is clearly a class act but not so overly polished that she seems to be merely going through the motions. And if the audience's enthusiastic reaction is anything to go by, this first visit to Glasgow certainly won't be her last.

 

Alison Kerr

 
The Johnny Mercer Centenary Concert: Carol Kidd, Clare Teal, Laurie Holloway, Todd Gordon and special guest, Sir Michael Parkinson
21 June 2009
 

The Johnny Mercer Centenary Concert
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
The Scotsman
****

Johnny Mercer proudly boasted amongst his ancestors a Scots physician who tended to the wounded at Culloden, but Sunday night's Glasgow Jazz Festival tribute to this "poet of Tin Pan Alley", born 100 years ago, was concerned with more recent history, and with Mercer's inordinate contribution to a golden age of popular songwriting.

Presented with warmth by Sir Michael Parkinson, who met Mercer on several occasions and was joined by pianist Laurie Holloway, former musical director of his shows and an old acquaintance of Mercer's, this could easily have turned into a mawkish nostalgia trip, but instead was marked by outstanding performances from the Mercer songbook by three fine singers, working with peerless accompanists in bassist Mario Caribe, drummer Alyn Cosker and guitarist Nigel Clark, and Holloway switching piano stools with David Patrick and Paul Harrison.

Clare Teal kicked off with the rumbustious, bossa-propelled It Had Better Be Tonight and the slinky Midnight Sun (featuring Mercer's bare-faced rhyming of "chalice" with "alabaster palace" and "aurora borealis"), while Todd Gordon caught the eloquent, bar-stool melancholy of One For My Baby and swung along nicely with Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home. Carol Kidd brought the house down with authoritative ease and unerring pitch, in the beautifully swooping Skylark and her full-pelt delivery of Come Rain or Come Shine, while she left Moon River hanging in the air, over Nigel Clark's spare guitar, a sublime demonstration of the enduring nature of a great song.

 

Jim Gilchrist

..................................................................................................................................

 

The Johnny Mercer Centenary Concert
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
The Herald
****

Short of bringing back Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Chet Baker from the dead, it would be difficult to think of a more apt way to celebrate the centenary of the great lyricist Johnny Mercer than the all-star show staged at the Concert Hall on Sunday night.

Three of the UK's best jazz singers - Carol Kidd, Clare Teal and Todd Gordon - served up a couple of sets of Mercer songs and demonstrated the range of his talent. If ever a writer was beloved by jazz singers it's Mercer, and it was a treat to hear his poetic lyrics delivered with such care and enthusiasm.

The dynamic Clare Teal's uptempo take on I'm Old Fashioned was the first of many highlights, along with her powerfully belted-out Blues In the Night, and, especially, her duet with elegant pianist Laurie Holloway on I Wanna Be Around.

Todd Gordon's invitation to the audience to join in on Goody Goody unleashed the jazz singer in most of the 1500-strong crowd but it was his interpretations of Mercer's haunting torch songs One For My Baby and When The World Was Young (both duets with piano) which stood out.

And then there was Carol Kidd whose performances of three of Mercer's most beautiful songs (Skylark, This Time The Dream's On Me and Moon River) surpassed all expectation. She may have made it through her exquisite reading of Moon River (with gorgeous accompaniment from guitarist Nigel Clark) without crying - but nobody else did. Not even our debonair host for the night, Sir Michael Parkinson, whose informal yet authoritative presenting style made this an altogether classier-than-normal affair.

 

Alison Kerr

 
Joel Frahm/Michael Janisch Quintet
22 March 2009
 

Joel Frahm/Michael Janisch Quintet
City Halls, Glasgow
The Herald
****

Joel Frahm wasn't entirely forthcoming on the distinctively Wisconsin-accented reminiscences that Michael Janisch hinted they indulge in occasionally. What was wholly apparent after two sets from their band, though, was that the New York-based saxophonist and currently London-dwelling bassist share a mutually compatible philosophy on jazz as well as sharing a home state.

This was Frahm's first time in Scotland - Janisch has been a frequent visitor in recent years - and his clear, forthright approach to the saxophone was evident from the start. With Janisch laying down confident, big-toned basslines, they formed a very American spine to a band that, as well as being three-fifths British, has a notable British forerunner in the Jazz Couriers, the 1950s group co-led by Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes's twin tenors.

They made reference to this with Hayes's Dear Johnny B, where Frahm and fellow tenorist Alex Garnett motored companionably, but with young vibes star Jim Hart offering another of multi-instrumentalist Hayes's dimensions, Jazz Couriers ghosts surfaced elsewhere, too.

The soloing was consistently stimulating and not a little entertaining at times - Frahm likes to work in a mischievous quote, be it from Mingus or further afield - but what really appealed were the variety of settings they favoured and the concentrated energy they brought to each one. From easy-paced blues and subtle romantic waltz to effusive Latin blow-out, and from re-constituted ballad and left-field cartoon soundtrack-like intricacy to steaming, straight-ahead hard bop, they covered a lot of ground but made everything sound of a piece - thanks in no small measure to David Lyttle's understated and assured drumming.

 

Rob Adams

 
Nigel Hitchcock & Paul Towndrow - Encounters
14 January 2009
 

Nigel Hitchcock & Paul Towndrow
City Halls, Glasgow
The Scotsman
****

TODD Gordon's Jazz International programme provided a platform for saxophonists Paul Towndrow and Nigel Hitchcock to lead a superb quintet in an encounter that seems certain to be repeated. Towndrow is one of Scotland's leading younger players, and Hitchcock was a major name on the London scene before moving to Skye a few years ago. The burly Englishman has been part of the Celtic fusion sound of Peatbog Faeries, but has not been heard much in a straight jazz context since moving here.

With Paul Harrison on piano, Mark Hodgson on bass and Alyn Cosker a galvanising force on drums, the saxophonists had a perfect platform for their complementary but contrasting stylistic approaches.

They chose to pay tribute to some of the great saxophonists in jazz history, including a new tune by Towndrow on that theme. They opened each set with a ballad for quartet – Towndrow chose Wayne Shorter's oblique Infant Eyes and Hitchcock opted for Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight.

An extemporised duet on Sony Rollins's Doxy featured the saxophonists on their own. Otherwise, it was alto and tenor in a quintet setting all the way. Highlights included a fiery Limehouse Blues (referencing the Adderley-Coltrane version), Shorter's angular Yes or No and a glorious account of Ornette Coleman's Ramblin'.

 

Kenny Mathieson

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Nigel Hitchcock & Paul Towndrow
City Halls, Glasgow
The Herald
****

Although necessarily selective - Nigel Hitchcock and Paul Towndrow would be blowing still if they'd attempted anything like a complete saxophone in jazz survey - the programme encompassed saxophone stars from the first, Lester Young, to the current generation's longest shadow, the late Michael Brecker, and even managed to combine the freewheeling, jagged edged idiosyncrasies of Ornette Coleman with David Sanborn's R&B-derived penetration over a distinctly New Orleans street band rhythm.

Hero worship extended to the saxophonists onstage. To Towndrow, the decade or so older Hitchcock is awesome, a musician whose speed of thought, athletic articulation and superb ballad playing are second nature. Yet Towndrow was no junior partner, opening with a mature, rhapsodic soprano feature of Wayne Shorter's Infant Eyes before locking his alto with Hitchcock's tenor on a sequence that included a totally absorbing saxophone conversation on Sonny Rollins' playful Doxy and ended with a supercharged, swinging quintet blast through Lester Young's Lester Leaps In.

The rhythm section - assured and lyrical pianist Paul Harrison, the undemonstrative and firm but agile bassist Mark Hodgson and brilliantly creative drummer Alyn Cosker - deserved equal billing, mastering Limehouse Blues' steam train tendencies and Steps Ahead's awkward-gaited Pools to facilitate a saxophone spree that festival organisers and promoters will ignore at their peril.

It comes as no surprise to learn that both of London-based saxophonist Julian Siegel's New York rhythm team have played solo concerts. Double bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron bring an invention and superbly rounded musicality that reek of self-sufficiency but in a trio setting make for a quietly thrilling and immensely satisfying encounter.

Quiet is the operative term. The trio let the natural sounds of their instruments sing with the dynamics of a string quartet.
And I mean sing. Seldom can have so many drum solos featured in one concert with such pleasing results and such a variety of sounds and patterns.
advertisement

Siegel's background and musical upbringing were neatly summed up in Trent Lock, dedicated jointly to the river where he used to fish - unsuccessfully - and the almost ever-present sound of Eddie Lockjaw Davis's saxophone at home in Nottingham. His original music for the trio can be both simple and wittily intricate, giving room for his own tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet - and in one instance all three - to progress with fluent clarity, and creating opportunities for all three players to engage in a bouncy, effervescent and emphatically spontaneous musical conversation. It was a conversation that they clearly enjoyed and the warm camaraderie onstage only increased the feeling of involvement felt in the audience.

 

Rob Adams

 

Todd Gordon: The Sinatra-Basie Sessions Revisited

with The Marcus Pope Big Band

25 June 2008
 

Todd Gordon: The Sinatra-Basie Sessions

Glasgow Jazz Festival 2008
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
The Herald
****

It's a well-known fact that Glasgow loves Frank Sinatra, so if you're going to do a concert associated in any way with Sinatra music, you can expect to attract a core crowd of Ol' Blue Eyes' fans - and you'll have to be good if you don't want to be lynched. On Wednesday night, Edinburgh's Todd Gordon offered his own interpretation of the Sinatra songbook, as recorded with the Count Basie band, and did it in a fashion that drew plenty of heckling - all of it favourable.


Accompanied by The Marcus Pope Big Band, and with his regular musical director David Patrick on piano, Gordon was clearly in his element singing mainly songs that he learned from the three albums Sinatra recorded in the 1960s with the Basie band. Not only is his voice softer round the edges, with a gentle Scottish burr, but he does a masterful job of un-self-consciously steering clear of the Sinatra touches that have almost become integral parts of such songs as I've Got You Under My Skin, Pennies From Heaven and Fly Me to the Moon.

As for the band, it proved ideal in the role of the famous Basie orchestra, and credit must go to Eliot Murray and David Patrick for their interpretations of the great arrangements by Quincy Jones and Neal Hefti.

 

Alison Kerr

 
Clare Teal and her trio
10 October 2008
   

Clare Teal
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
Irish Times
****

Second-generation Irish singer Clare Teal is widely acknowledged as Britain’s top female jazz singer. In 2005 the Yorkshire-born Teal won British Jazz Vocalist of the Year and she then picked up BBC Jazz Vocalist of the Year in 2006.

On stage in Edinburgh Teal cuts a classy but down to earth figure; her rich, warm voice radiates joy throughout this romantic, candle-lit venue. Retro and evocative American Songbook standard Get Happy, made famous by Judy Garland, sounds more loungey - there’s an almost Doris Day-style innocence, which is quite an achievement when you think the song is about religious Armageddon.

Clare does a stellar job in entertaining the audience as if she’s chatting to her guests in her front room, informing little known facts about her songwriting heroes and the complex vocal arrangements of the songs. There’s a storming version of Van Morrison’s Moondance - Teal completely throws herself into the performance and shows just why she has claimed to many sought after awards; her vocals are stunning yet effortless.

She’s joined on stage by local jazz singer Todd Gordon and the pair really hit the peaks for a soaring duet. The pair have an obvious chemistry and they push each other, and the performance, through the roof during a foot-stomping version of I Get a Kick Out of You.

It’s not hard to see why fellow musicians such as Michael Buble and Jamie Cullum fall at the feet of this woman along with esteemed music critics and journalists such as Paul Gambaccini and Sir Michael Parkinson. Fans spilled onto the streets of Edinburgh completely elated by the sheer celebratory atmosphere of the night.

 

Richard Purden

 
John Taylor & Gwilym Simcock
3 and 4 April 2008
John Taylor   Gwilym Simcock

John Taylor & Gwilym Simcock
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
The Scotsman
*****

The combination of the seasoned John Taylor and the fast-rising Gwilym Simcock promised a memorable feast of creative jazz piano, and so it turned out. Whether performing individually or in tandem, the pair maintained an absorbing level of creative thinking and interaction that ensured a long concert never felt like a note too many.

Hearing each play a solo set was a treat in itself, but it was the duets that really scored. Two pianos with no rhythm section is not unprecedented in jazz, but it is unusual, and the occasion was given extra spice by the generational contrast. Taylor is long established as one of the greatest players on the European jazz scene, while Simcock is a major talent in the making and acknowledges the older pianist as an influence.

Their explosive duet seemed to click into place right from the opening notes of Cole Porter's Everything I Love, and they negotiated the effervescent tumbling phrases as if they do this all the time (it was only their third collaboration). Their wide-ranging musical resources, structured manipulation of space and ability to respond to ideas in spontaneous fashion were exhilarating.

Joe Henderson's brooding Black Narcissus, a lovely, thoughtful development of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and a sophisticated high-speed romp through On Green Dolphin Street confirmed their empathy. They switched pianos for their encore with similar results.

 

Kenny Mathieson


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John Taylor & Gwilym Simcock
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
The Herald
*****

The sight of one Steinway grand piano onstage is still a relative luxury for a jazz pianist on the UK circuit, so seeing two side-by-side must have felt like an extra special treat for John Taylor and Gwilym Simcock.

Representing the cream of their respective generations, the pair certainly played as if inspired by this good fortune, delivering a truly outstanding first presentation for Todd Gordon’s brave new Jazz International venture in Edinburgh.

Taylor’s opening solo section, working from a spare, careful statement into a flowing, always melodic improvisation, showed exactly why he has been so revered in Europe over the past thirty years. Lyrical and boldly assertive, his Between Moons almost defines the European style of jazz composition and yet as he confirmed in duets with Simcock, his ability to breathe new life into the American jazz repertoire makes this his natural habitat, too.

High class and totally involving though their solo spots were – Simcock is a playful though very logical improviser – it was in the duets that this concert shone particularly. Each tune, including Cole Porter’s Everything I love and a gorgeous reading of A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square, was a spontaneous conversation.

At times each would add a chord or a colour to the other’s previous statement, laying down a kind of good-natured challenge. Phrases would be exchanged or returned slightly twisted, actions such as playing on the piano’s strings and innards would be mimicked, and the pieces would build with witty, creative dialogue that was clearly fun for the players as well as totally absorbing for the listener.

 

Rob Adams


 
Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani
29 April 2008
Stefano Bollani   Enrico bal

Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
The Herald
*****

Two concerts into its programme, the Jazz International series at the Queen's Hall is playing a blinder. As strong as our home-grown jazz scene has become over the past decade, we need regular reminders on the big stage of what's happening in the outside world, especially when it's as good as this Italian trumpet and piano duo.

Rava and Bollani sound and sometimes act like a continental version of Laurel and Hardy - one helpfully translates the other's announcements from English into Italian - and there's no little theatre in among music that slips literally, and seamlessly, from the ridiculous to the sublime.

A tribute to Fred Astaire, preceded by a few comical steps from Rava, took Cheek to Cheek into variously hectic and daft places it's seldom been before - that'll be cheek as in impudence, then - only to melt into a sensitive reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim's gorgeous ballad Retrato Em Branco e Preto.

Rava's introduction of his partner "on drums" may have been a slip of the tongue. But Bollani made it prescient, rounding off the boogie-ing Algir Dalbughi by cuffing the piano and accompanying the first of three encores on the lid, the frame and finally the keys with rhythmical use of the forearm and a water bottle.

In between, he displayed a touch that married classical romance with blues, swing, bop and oblique invention, complementing Rava's at times plangent, at times quick-thinking and playful improvisations and contributing to a sound that on the trumpeter's prolonged final note was utterly - no, I'm not going to apologise for the pun - Ravashing.

 

Rob Adams


.....................................................................................................................................................................................

Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

The Scotsman
*****

THE sumptuous and prolonged golden note on which they ended their third encore expressed something of the sublime aspect of this extraordinary Italian trumpet and piano duo's playing, even if it did not show the witty and at times wonderfully loopy nature of their stageplay.

They could have just met each other in a bar: Rava, the grizzled old jazzer, leaning nonchalantly at the piano, occasionally dismantling his trumpet or peering quizzically at his younger partner as he spun delicate traceries from the keyboard or attacked it with an energy and dexterity that attracts comparisons to Art Tatum (though also with flashes of Stravinsky, not to mention Chico Marx).

And when Rava finally brought in his horn, he could be two players, shifting from the brazen to the lusciously velvet in mid-breath, languid yet well-considered phrases working themselves into manic yells.

There was much more immediacy than in the intense communion of their current ECM album The Third Man. There was also a frequently cinematic quality to their music, with Bollani suggesting considerable potential as a silent movie pianist in Algir Dalbughi, a sort of boogie with Keystone Cops overtones, while their pantomimic dismantling of Fred Astaire's I'm In Heaven roped in everything from the Seven Dwarves to the Last Post.

There was a louche yet big-hearted rendering of a Charlie Parker standard, a sweetly melancholy excursion into Antonio Jobim territory and, of course, the gentle Italian song on which they finished so beautifully. Bellissimo indeed.

 

Jim Gilchrist



 
Martin Taylor & Alison Burns
30 and 31 May 2008
  Alison Burns

Martin Taylor & Alison Burns
City Halls, Glasgow
The Herald
***

You might imagine that to be sharing the bill of a duo gig with international guitar star Martin Taylor, you'd have to be a pretty big name yourself. But if you're his daughter-in-law and are blessed with a honeyed, Julie London-like voice, star status is clearly not essential. By capitalising on her family connection on Saturday night, relative newcomer Alison Burns bravely made herself a sitting duck for cynics - and anyone envious of her headstart on the jazz scene.

And there is reason to be cynical. Burns has a beautiful voice but a great deal of what she sings seems superficial and merely pretty. In some instances, her version is so close to the well-known recording that you wonder why she bothered. It's pleasant to listen to, but it doesn't resonate emotionally. On Saturday night, the standout duo number was the one which she very much made her own: a completely absorbing and convincing interpretation of Sophisticated Lady.

The other problem is Burns's obvious awkwardness and discomfort when she's talking between numbers - something she should really leave to the more assured Taylor. She had a difficult task, mind you: duos work best in smaller, more intimate venues, and the Grand Hall was far too big (and the seats far too creaky) for a two-man show. But, at the same time, a big hall requires a singer who grabs the attention and holds it.

Because she has such a lovely voice and down-to-earth, warm, personality, Burns got away with it on Saturday - but it would be nice to hear her sing with more passion, talk less, and return to less formal venues.

 

Alison Kerr

 
Todd Gordon: The Sinatra-Basie Sessions Revisited
14 August 2008
 

Todd Gordon & Marcus Pope Big Band: The Sinatra-Basie Sessions Revisted
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Three Weeks
*****

As I sat in a sea that groaned with years, I realised that big bands make me wish old age would creep on a little quicker. At the first bawdy brass interjection, snare roll, and the shiver and grin that came with it, I started picturing the silver fox's hair, wearing black tie suits in an unabashed manner, the swaggering cool and sliced Americana that is big band swing. Todd Gordon, and the incredibly tight and flawless big band backing, never took that dream down from the pedestal. Belting out mainly Sinatra and Basie classics with a voice that was right on the button - the swing button - they floored me (and the audience) with seamlessly arranged, masterfully crooned swing.

 

Alistair Baguley

 

 


 
Norma Winstone with Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing
19 October 2008
   

Norma Winstone Trio

City Halls , Glasgow

The Herald
****

They may have been introduced as a chamber jazz trio but Norma Winstone's accompanists hardly played up to the description, launching into an opening number - a perhaps unlikely union of James Joyce's words with Nearer My God to Thee's melody - with a gusto that threatened to overpower even a singer of Winstone's fortitude.

First impressions can lie, though, and what followed illustrated why Winstone is held in great reverence by those who know her work and showed that in Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German soprano saxophonist and bass clarinettist Klaus Gesing, the English singer has found, possibly, the band of her life.

She may quip about getting too old to be tackling too many rigorous numbers but even in her bus pass years, Winstone is an example to any musician. Always ready for new challenges and different directions, she's working here with a repertoire that needs an encyclopaedia to accommodate it. Where else are you going to hear John Coltrane's Giant Steps on tiptoes, Randy Newman given Thelonious Monk's overcoat, Brigadoon, Harry Nilsson, calypso and Italian folksong all sounding so persuasively compatible?

Venier and Gesing, it turns out, are immense, forming a percussion section with Winstone's mouth music, offering a dancey bass clarinet descant here, gentle soprano probings and brilliantly rhapsodic piano there.

One of several inspired segues, wherein Winstone slipped from wordless ballad to a superbly rendered glide through Tom Waits's San Diego Serenade into an Italian equivalent of Flora Purim's intensely rhythmical Brazilian chanting, would have capped a terrific performance, until Winstone led a deathless Every Time We Say Goodbye and broke every heart in the room.

 

Rob Adams

 

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Norma Winstone Trio

City Halls , Glasgow

The Scotman
****

Put singer Norma Winstone together with a pianist and a horn player and thoughts inevitably stray to the great Azimuth trio with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler. In this recent updating of the format, she was joined by Italian pianist Glauco Venier and
Austrian Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone.

The group has already put their distinctive stamp on the concept. Winstone's microphone level was too low in the opening song, Venier's setting of a poem by James Joyce, but that was quickly remedied. What followed was a wonderful display of the art of jazz singing framed within an imaginative and highly interactive instrumental conversation.

They drew on a number of songs from their album Distances, released on ECM earlier this year. The Munich label is a natural home for their thoughtful chamber jazz approach. Winstone assuaged local sensibilities by balancing her own A Song for England with a lovely reading of The Heather on the Hill, and treated a group of Italian visitors from Venier's home region to a song in what the pianist insisted was their local language rather than a dialect.

Several songs featured her wordless vocalisations employed in instrumental fashion, while digressions from the album included re-workings of Nilsson's Everybody's Talking and Tom Waits' San Diego Serenade.

Coltrane's iconic Giant Steps was re-imagined as Giant's Gentle Strides, while Venier's Troll's Party and Gorizia fired up the tempo and energy levels.

 

Kenny Mathieson

 

 


 
Carol Kidd
24 October (Queen's Hall) and 12 November 2008 (Royal Concert Hall)
   

Carol Kidd

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

The Herald
***

Carol Kidd has always been a bit of an enigma. There are those - and you can count your reviewer among them - who believe that, with her talent, Kidd could have gone to the top of the world's jazz singing tree. If she'd wanted to. Singing to promote her new album, Dreamsville, her first after a lengthy lull following her partner's death, Kidd showed all the old magic - clear diction, telling phrasing, great pitch - and more.

Fine though Dreamsville is, Kidd singing to people as opposed to a studio wall produces an extra edge, a deeper human touch and some daring variations and elastic breathing. She was so good to begin with, and so at ease with her quartet, that one slightly skewed syllable stood out like a swearword on Songs of Praise. Her duet with bassist Tom Lyne on Bye Bye Blackbird was equal parts typically gallus fun and high art, and Stars Fell on Alabama was simply sublime.

Things began to go awry, though, on I've Got You Under My Skin. Maybe it was just where I was sitting but the heavy reverb on Kidd's microphone reduced this from swinging'n'singing to shouting. The two new songs by Glasgow writer J J Gilmour that followed may be decent soft-rock but they're not what Kidd does best and the second half varied between the gorgeous - Dreamsville itself and a drop dead Happiness is a Thing Called Joe - and the disappointingly dreary, including a sonically messy reading of Kidd's signature song, When I Dream, and a pub jam version of Joe Cocker's Unchain My Heart.

 

Rob Adams

 

 


 
Claire Martin & Ian Shaw: Cool Yule
5-7 December 2008 (Queen's Hall, Edinburgh/Eden Court, Inverness/Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow)
 

Claire Martin & Ian Shaw: Cool Yule

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

The Herald
***

Claire Martin and Ian Shaw are, by the latter's own admission, too much of the "bah, humbug" persuasion to put on a full Christmas show. So what we got here was a cross between an intimate singing session round the piano, family get-together style, and a kind of jazz panto, with model Jordan making a brief cameo appearance as the villain, Shaw doing a fine job as the long- suffering dame and Martin acting as his straight man.

They make a good team. They're obviously mates and some of their well-worked-out harmonies achieved sibling-like closeness as they cast their nets widely over the popular song catalogue of the past century. This made for what might, on paper, look like quite a motley selection. With the pair's undoubted vocal skills and Shaw's chunky piano style providing a common thread, however, it was often a shorter hop between, say, Harold Arlen and Lou Reed than it was from the comical unscheduled stops such as Blues in the Night's transposition from Memphis to Scunthorpe, Walk on the Wild Side's segue into the Coronation Street theme or Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off My Feet bumping obliquely into Jingle Bells as if by "oh, heck, it's a Christmas show" obligation.

More direct Yuletide acknowledgments came later, in the shape of a lovely Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Martin and Shaw's reworking of The Christmas Song to accommodate the unfortunate Geoff's nuts roasting by an open fire, before tributes to Joni Mitchell, Shaw's dad, cosmetic surgery and Esbjorn Svensson led to the duo riding off courtesy of - och, you've guessed - Percy Sledge.

 

Rob Adams

 

 

 

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