Category Archives: Glasgow Jazz reviews archive

Review: Martin Taylor & Alison Burns – Ella at 100

Martin Taylor & Alison Burns – Ella at 100, Strathclyde Suite, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow ****

Maybe it’s fitting that a star who was as unassuming in real life as Ella Fitzgerald should have a low-key centenary year – in Scotland at least. The legendary jazz singer’s birthday celebrations can be contrasted with those organised for that other great 20th Century voice, Frank Sinatra, when he hit the C spot in 2015.

While Sinatra’s centenary in Scotland was a series of big band bashes fronted by such leading singing stars as Kurt Elling, Curtis Stigers and Frank Sinatra Jr, the biggest name on any of the Fitzgerald-themed Scottish concerts is a guitarist ….

But what a guitarist. Martin Taylor, who opened the Glasgow Jazz Festival on Wednesday with his and singer Alison Burns’s tribute, brought the house down in a way that Fitzgerald herself would have done, and in the duo format which Fitzgerald used to memorable effect with guitarist Joe Pass.

His two extended (non Fitzgerald-related) solo segments were, unsurprisingly given his status as an internationally renowned soloist, the stand-outs of the concert: tour-de-force balladeering on Hymne a l’amour (which, he joked, he used to think was a Glaswegian song because his aunty would invariably sing it after a few sherries), a beautiful and characteristically richly textured interpretation of Henry Mancini’s Two For the Road, and a gorgeous bossa version of The Carpenters’ I Won’t Last a Day Without You.

With a warm, lush voice which suited the intimate feel of the venue, Alison Burns impressed in the Ella role, bravely attempting to reproduce some of Fitzgerald’s less energetic improvisations and singing in a style which featured most of Fitzgerald’s trademark “licks”.

A slightly shorter version of this review was published in The Scotsman on Saturday, June 24th

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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, whose archive these cuttings come from!

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