Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra, Glasgow Art Club, Thursday November 15th ****
We fans of what is rather dismissively described as “mainstream” jazz (which is to say jazz that swings, is tuneful and usually has at least a bare-bones structure) are often made to feel like a minority group; the uncool kids on the jazz block who get torn to shreds if we stick our heads above the parapet and dare to venture a negative opinion about one of the current sacred cows.
The irony is that, since it encompasses the history of jazz, this minority music represents the majority of jazz genres and possibilities. Which is why Thursday night’s concert by Ken Mathieson’s excellent Classic Jazz Orchestra was almost entirely different to the one it gave during the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in July. Back then the focus was on the early “Kings of Jazz” – Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and Jelly Roll Morton – and their music from the 1920s and 1930s, but on Thursday, it was the middle period of jazz which was most revisited in repertoire terms.
Revisited – and refreshed. The joy of the CJO is that it is not slavishly recreating original recordings or trying to capture a period feel. It mixes numbers from across the decades – in much the same way as we do with our record collections – but they’re channelled through the prism of Mathieson’s own arrangements, or the original ones which he will undoubtedly have tweaked to suit this top-notch band.
Among the many gems served up in style on Thursday were numbers by Cannonball Adderley, Barney Bigard and Bob Brookmeyer but the absolute stand-outs were Gerry Mulligan’s Out Back of the Barn, which showcased the elegant baritone saxophone of Allon Beauvoisin, and two showstopping numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
First published in The Herald, Monday November 19th