Monthly Archives: July 2014

Review: Stu Brown’s Twisted Toons, Glasgow

Stu Brown’s Twisted Toons,Recital Room, Glasgow, Saturday June 28th ****

It was impossible not to be charmed by the Twisted Toons concert at the Recital Room on Saturday evening. Not only is drummer Stu Brown an extremely engaging and amiable host, but his passion for Raymond Scott’s cultish compositions – which were used in dozens of classic Warner Bros cartoons as well as the more recent Ren and Stimpy animations – and the performances of them by a septet comprising A-list Scottish jazz musicians make an irresistible combination. That said, however, a little of the Scott repertoire goes a long way…

The opening numbers were highly enjoyable. Jungle Medley was a collection of pieces from Looney Tunes cartoons by Carl Stalling which segued into Scott’s swinging, vaguely early-Ellingtonian composition Dinner Time For a Pack of Hungry Cannibals and featured a superb hot clarinet solo by Martin Kershaw. Scott’s spooky Goblins in the Steeple was another gem, thanks to the terrific ensemble work and a stylish solo by trumpeter Tom MacNiven. The septet sound – of clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, violin, piano, bass and drums – on this number, the playful arrangement and the classy playing brought to mind some of the brilliant work of some of Marty Grosz’s modern-day small, 1920s-style, groups which blend zingy, witty arrangements with top drawer soloing.

Less appealing, however, were full-length cartoon scores – perhaps they would work better if accompanying a screening of the cartoons. The complete scores are too disjointed, and their jazz and tuneful elements too scattered to be satisfying listening on their own for the lay person.

* First published in The Scotsman, Monday June 30th

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Review: James Tormé & His All Star Trio, Glasgow

James Tormé & His All Star Trio, 29, Glasgow, Friday June 27th  ***

There was a touch of the Emperor’s New Clothes about Friday night’s concert at new venue, 29,  a lovely supper club space on the fourth floor of the private members’ club in Royal Exchange Square. Why? Because not only was up-and-coming singer James Tormé presented and introduced as a big name (big surname, maybe) whose presence was something of a coup, but he was accompanied by an “all-star” trio, plus a saxophonist, of whom only one musician was familiar to this jazz fan, and even he would probably be the first to register surprise at his sudden promotion to star status.

Still, the audience seemed not only to buy it but to lap it up – along with everything Tormé himself threw at them. He fairly tested the patience with cheesy inter-song patter worthy of Liberace, and with his habit of striking a series of poses nonstop during his songs as if he was doing a simultaneous fashion shoot.

In Emperor’s New Clothes style, only one woman (presumably not caring if she appeared a fool), shouted out what everyone was surely thinking – “Och, you’re a right name-dropper!” – as Tormé effused endlessly about how his parents met, his father’s hit records (which he then sang) and his Scottish connection.

Can he sing? He sure can. He proved it during effortless but impressive scat solos and on unfussy ballads. He doesn’t need all the showbiz window dressing and posturing – and the over-arranged songs don’t do him many favours either.

 * First published in The Scotsman on Monday, June 30th

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