Category Archives: Glasgow Jazz reviews archive

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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Twenty Years a Jazz Writer

I realised recently that I’d notched up 20 years writing about jazz, mostly for The Herald newspaper in Glasgow. There was a lot more of the kind of jazz I love being played in Scotland back then and I was able to gain a great deal of writing experience in a relatively short space of time.

Indeed, it was my passion for jazz that led to my very first commission: I was a student doing an unofficial work experience on The Herald Diary when the then arts editor, John Fowler, came over to say hello. He asked me what my interests were. I told him jazz and film. I explained that the jazz I loved was not the stuff that was deemed cool and current, and that I was always the youngest person at every gig I attended.

It so happened that my favourite saxophonist was playing in town that very week – so John asked me to try writing a personal preview. He liked it, printed it – and promptly commissioned me to review the gig. And so, my fate was sealed … as was that of my Aunty Tanny, from whose archive these cuttings come!

From The Herald, April 6, 1993

From The Herald, April 6, 1993

From The Herald, April 8, 1993

From The Herald, April 8, 1993

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Filed under Glasgow Jazz reviews archive