Rain beating down on the tent’s roof, damp coats, uncomfortable Spiegeltent seats, and two guys onstage who looked like they’d taken a wrong turn en route to a convention for Latin teachers: the early evening jazz festival gig on Monday did not promise to be a joyful affair. But the duo concert featuring the versatile Norwegian pianist Larsen (last heard here last year accompanying a singer on a programme of cabaret songs) and Swedish-born clarinettist Kellin proved to be well worth running the risk of contracting trench foot from the George Square mud.
These musicians are keepers of the flame of early and classic jazz styles and, on Monday, they exhumed tunes from the repertoires of three pioneering jazz men – and made them as fresh and thrilling as they must have been when they were written, in some cases almost a century ago. With their rousing opener, Jelly Roll Morton’s Big Fat Ham, any thought of this music being of purely historic interest went out the tent window; this was thrilling, exhilarating stuff which instantly hooked the audience and kept everyone pinned to their seats for a solid 90 minutes.
With his squawky, authentic New Orleans clarinet sound, Kellin complements Larsen’s delicate, refined piano style perfectly and what was particularly appealing was the fact that each of the musicians had a direct link to one of the other two composers whose work was featured: in the 1970s, Kellin worked with the great trumpeter Jabbo Smith, whose tender ballads I Owe It All To You and Must Be Right; Can’t Be Wrong were highlights, while the young Larsen met the legendary ragtime pianist Eubie Blake at around the same time. In other words, Monday’s audience was three degrees separated from a certain Scott Joplin…
First published in The Herald, Wednesday, July 25th
Big Fat Ham
Wild Man Blues
How Could Cupid Be So Stupid?
I Owe It All To You
Katie Red, Who’s Been Sleepin’ in My Bed?
Love Will Find a Way
Must Be Right; Can’t Be Wrong
You’re Lucky to Me – Memories of You