Talk about having the odds stacked against you. The Kenny Ellis Trio’s gig at the Dans Paleis (it was originally to be the Bosco Theatre) really had more than its fair share of obstacles to overcome on Thursday evening. Firstly, there was the monsoon going on outside (which undoubtedly deterred some folk from venturing into the “tented village” in George Square), then there was leaking of sound from the tent next door (which has been a problem throughout the jazz festival, especially for Spiegeltent audiences), and then there was a drum kit which seemed to be playing itself thanks to its reverberating cymbals – either that or Lord Lucan was putting in a guest appearance.
Luckily, bassist Ellis and his cohorts – trombonist Brian Keddie and pianist Brian Kellock – surmounted all these challenges. And in style. These musicians are old friends and, in the case of Ellis and Kellock – who play a weekly gig together – regular collaborators.
What was most apparent on Thursday was how well all three worked together and could second guess each other’s next musical step, and how each gave the other the best possible accompaniment to allow him to shine. As Ellis, commenting on the terrific interplay between the two Brians, said: “Not having drums or other horns just gives you a bit more freedom.” The trombone-piano-bass combo had a lovely gentle feel which worked well in the small tent.
Among the highlights were a gorgeous Everything Happens to Me which showcased Keddie’s lyrical, understated style and Miles Davis’s Nardis, a stand-out for all three musicians but one which was, really, owned by Kellock, whose solo was edge-of-your-seat stuff.
(First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 30th)