Category Archives: Concert reviews

Review: Nigel Clark & Tom MacNiven Quintet Celebrate Bobby Wellins, Glasgow Jazz Festival

Nigel Clark & Tom MacNiven Quintet Celebrate Bobby Wellins, Drygate, Glasgow, Saturday June 23rd ****

Saturday night at the Glasgow Jazz Festival was all about one of the city’s greatest musical exports – the tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, who died in November 2016 at the age of 80.

The esteem in which he’s held by successive generations of players and the fondness with which he’s remembered radiated through the three-part tribute which featured musicians he worked with in Scotland – notably trumpeter MacNiven and pianist Brian Kellock – and those, such as guitarist Nigel Clark and tenor saxophonist Helena Kay, whom he encouraged when they were starting out in jazz.

Kicking off the proceedings was a compelling documentary, Dreams Are Free, which was not only a lovely portrait of Wellins but also a reminder of how much films can bring to a music festival; for one hour, Wellins himself regaled the audience with his star-studded stories, and spoke extremely frankly about the struggle with heroin which kept him away from playing for a decade and nearly cost him his family.

Gary Barber’s film was followed by an exquisite solo set by Nigel Clark who was mentored by Wellins when they were both working down south in the 1980s and is, like Wellins, a master of ballad. Highlights included Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s O Grande Amor.

Jobim also provided a highlight of the closing set – by an all-star Scottish quintet playing the tracks recorded 20 years previously on Tom MacNiven’s album Guess What?, which had featured Wellins. O Morro/Favela was one of the calmer numbers in an exuberant set which culminated in something of a party atmosphere with MacNiven’s Disciples of the Art of the Off Beat and an unexpectedly rousing take on Blue Monk.

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Review: Hailey Tuck, Glasgow Jazz Festival

Hailey Tuck, St Luke’s, Glasgow, Thursday June 21st  ****Hailey Tuck
 
The young Texan singer Hailey Tuck, who made her Scottish debut at the Glasgow Jazz Festival on Thursday, is not so much the next Madeleine Peyroux or Melody Gardot as she is their musical lovechild.
 
Like Gardot, she has an assured, controlled, sultry voice and a flair for drama, and like Peyroux, she has a spare, pared-back singing style, a way of hanging back from the beat and making unexpected forays into the upper reaches of her range.
 
Skipping onstage in a Jean Harlow frock and sporting her signature Louise Brooks bob, Tuck won the St Luke’s congregation over with her infectious joie-de-vivre and the self-deprecating humour she revealed as she recounted her escapades in the music world and how she managed to catch the attention of Peyroux and Gardot’s producer, Larry Klein, who produced her debut album.
 
Her storytelling skills were also much in evidence in the way she put over her eclectic programme; the range of song choices inspired – she said – by Klein’s ethos of sitting pop songs alongside jazz standards. So we had a bossa nova take on the Zombies’ Tell Him No, which worked well with Tuck’s sultry, seductive voice, and a brilliant version of Pulp’s Underwear which the coquettish Tuck evocatively brought to life.
 
Less successful were the over-aranged numbers in which Tuck’s vocals were drowned out by her trio, and her strange mutations of the familiar melodies of My Heart Belongs to Daddy and Trouble In Mind. The latter may have been a blues touching on suicide, but – as with every song on Thursday – it was sung with a smile by the kittenish Tuck, the cat who’s got the cream and just can’t hide her delight.
First published in The Herald, Monday June 25th
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Programme
* Don’t Think Twice
* Sunday Morning
* Polka Dots and Moonbeams
* Trouble in Mind
* Alcohol
* Tell Him (Her) No
* So In Love
* Everything Happens To Me
* My Heart Belongs to Daddy
* Cry to Me
* Say You Don’t Mind
* Underwear
* Do You Know What I Means to Miss New Orleans
* St James Infirmary
* After You’ve Gone
* Junk (encore)

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Brian Kellock Meets the Ear Regulars

The concert I enjoyed most at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival was one I wasn’t reviewing for a newspaper – so, instead of taking notes, I took photos (just on my phone) of the first-ever encounter between top UK pianist Brian Kellock and two of the most regular members of the band that plays weekly at the Ear Inn in New York City – Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet) and Scott Robinson (clarinet & saxophone). They were joined by Dave Blenkhorn (guitar) and Roy Percy (bass). Scroll down beyond the slideshow for the set list …

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Brian Kellock (piano), Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet), Scott Robinson (clarinet, saxophone), David Blenkhorn (guitar) & Roy Percy (bass) at the Piccolo George Square on Monday July 17th, 2017

Hindustan

Tishimingo Blues

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans

Some of These Days

I’m Puttin’ All My Eggs in One Basket

Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You

Lady Be Good

I Got a Right To Sing the Blues

Running’ Wild

Creole Love Call (encore)

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Ryan Quigley Quintet

Ryan Quigley Quintet Plays Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Rose Theatre *****
 
Sunday afternoon’s concert by the Ryan Quigley Quintet could not have been better timed. By the closing weekend of the festival, jazz lag is inevitable – and the depressing weather didn’t exactly make venturing out to a gig seem like an appealing prospect. However, the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, played by the dynamic band headed by trumpeter Ryan Quigley, proved to be the perfect antidote; just what was required to blast the cobwebs away. 
 
For 90 minutes, this terrific quintet powered through the bebop repertoire, barely pausing for breath between numbers or coming up for air from their energetic solos. This was thrilling, edge-of-your-seat stuff – not least because of the excitement generated by the combination of Quigley and alto saxophonist Soweto Kinch in the front line, playing together for the first time in a decade and clearly getting a kick out of doing so. 
 
Even the ballads were energetic. Introducing All The Things You Are after telling the crowd that the opener, Dizzy Atmosphere, had perhaps been too fast, the wry Quigley promised to slow things down – only to produce a ballad so exciting that it induced whoops from the audience midway through. 
 
It wasn’t just the hot, fiery and flamboyant horn playing of Quigley and Kinch that worked the crowd into a frenzy in this rafters-raising concert; the rhythm section – Alan Benzie (piano), Mario Caribe (bass) and Alyn Cosker (drums) was superb as well; Benzie in particular making an impression with his dazzlingly inventive, witty and sophisticated soloing. In all, the ideal high note with which to end the festival.
 
* First published in The Herald on Tuesday July 25th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Alison Affleck’s Copper Cats

Alison Affleck’s Copper Cats, George Square Spiegeltent ****

“And Now For Something Completely Different” could have been the title of the early evening concert given by Alison Affleck’s Copper Cats on Friday. Unlike any other gig in the jazz festival programme, this hour-long show drew almost exclusively from the early jazz and blues era – and did so from a woman’s point of view, giving a rare airing to songs by such pioneering women as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Leading the charge on Friday and shaking the dust off the early jazz repertoire was Edinburgh-based American singer Alison Affleck, whose informative and sassy introductions to the songs ensured that the audience was receptive and entertained even before she began singing. 
 
Despite her fairly stylised, slightly theatrical mannerisms, Affleck brought an authenticity to such ancient numbers as Downhearted Blues and A Good Man is Hard To Find. Her natural American accent played a big part in this, along with an obvious inclination towards blues-singing. But where she particularly excelled on Friday was as a musical storyteller. St James Infirmary and The Black-Eyed Blues were stand-outs because Affleck didn’t just churn out the lyrics; she used them to bring the characters mentioned in these songs to life, and to create atmosphere and drama. 
 
Of course, she couldn’t have done all this as enjoyably without a good band playing with her; her piano-less quintet – boasting the crack team of Colin Steele (trumpet) and Dick Lee (clarinet) – did a terrific job of keeping the music swinging in suitably hot style.
 
* First published in The Scotsman on Monday July 24th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Remembering Chet – and Gerry

Remembering Chet – and Gerry, Rose Theatre ****
 
The deservedly popular tribute group Remembering Chet – a swinging trio with Iain Ewing (vocals) and Colin Steele (trumpet) reflecting the twin facets of the late, great Chet Baker’s music-making, and Euan Stevenson (piano) accompanying them – has been a staple of the last few Edinburgh Jazz Festivals. For this year’s event, on Saturday lunchtime, the band added a new dimension by bringing baritone saxophonist Billy Fleming in to the mix, thus allowing them to broaden the programme out to include some of the classic numbers Baker recorded with Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s.
 
It certainly gave the group – which, Ewing explained, he had been about to retire – a new lease of life; Fleming’s graceful baritone forming a formidable front line with the ever-eloquent Steele trumpet, notably in their unaccompanied climax to Bernie’s Tune, one of the compositions famously recorded by Baker and Mulligan’s radical piano-less quartet but here benefitting also from Euan Stevenson’s elegant keyboard skills.
 
Ewing, as ever, kept his patter lighthearted and often very funny to offset the melancholy that characterises the greatest hits from Baker’s back catalogue as a singer. As Steele headed offstage to sit out one ballad, Ewing quipped: “Colin’s away to mainline in the toilets. We are a Method Chet Baker tribute band. I, of course, represent Chet Baker after he died.”
 
As for those melancholy songs, Ewing – like Steele on trumpet – did his usual terrific job of stylishly channelling the Baker hallmarks – wistfulness, a soft, gentle tone, simplicity and vulnerability – while avoiding sounding like an impersonator. The many highlights included I Get Along Without You Very Well, which featured an exquisite, Satie-esque accompaniment from Euan Stevenson.
 
* First published in The Scotsman on Monday July 24th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Carol Kidd Sings the Music of Judy Garland

Carol Kidd Sings the Music of Judy Garland, George Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh ***
 
If there has been one consistent talking point through this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival it has been frustration with its Easyjet method of boarding – making audiences for the tents queue outside; only to be allowed into the venue at the time that the concert is scheduled to start.
 
At Thursday’s Carol Kidd concert, one which was always likely to draw a high proportion of golden oldie ticket holders, observers braced themselves for fisticuffs as a bunch of stick-wielding geriatrics sprang unexpectedly from benches in George Square Gardens and formed a Saga-style stampede into the venue ahead of the punters who had been waiting in the mile-long queue. 
 
Kidd herself referred to the problems of age during an enjoyable 90 minutes in which she evoked the spirit of Ella Fitzgerald by gamely improvising the lyrics she had forgotten, but the main challenge she faced was on ballads – normally her strongest suit. The problem was that her band – pianist Paul Harrison and bassist Mario Caribe – didn’t provide enough colour, depth or texture behind her as she sang such beautiful ballads as The Man Who Got Away. 
 
Kidd has sung Gershwin’s Do It Again in a slowed-down, seductive and suggestive style before and it has been magic, but on Thursday, there was so little going on behind the long, not very varied, notes of the melody that it began to seem funereal rather than sexy. Even her musical Meg Ryan moment on the “oh-oh-oh” failed to relight the fire …
 
* First published in The Scotsman on Saturday July 22nd

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