Tag Archives: Allon Beauvoisin

Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Eliot Murray Big Band

Eliot Murray Big Band: 1947 Tommy Sampson and Edwin Holland, West Princes Street Gardens Spiegeltent ****
 
It may have been the jazz festival show with the longest title but that title still doesn’t explain what Tuesday lunchtime’s West Princes Street Gardens gig was all about. The short-lived big band formed by Edinburgh-born trumpeter Tommy Sampson (who died in 2008 at the age of 90) just after the Second World War is considered by many to be one of the best British big bands of the era. 
 
Sampson, who became known as “Scotland’s King of Swing,” founded the 17—piece band for the 1947 season at the El Dorado ballroom in Leith, and, playing arrangements by Sampson and his right-hand man Edwin Holland, it was an instant hit and soon made a big impact on the British music scene, thanks to numerous tours and BBC broadcasts.  
 
Just as the Sampson orchestra saw the likes of future international star Joe Temperley pass through its ranks, so Tuesday’s concert, under the direction of the affable Eliot Murray, a longtime associate of Sampson, boasted the cream of the current crop of Scottish jazz musicians (including Laura Macdonald, Konrad Wiszniewski and Allon Beauvoisin), several of whom are having a busy festival juggling different musical personalities for different projects. 
 
Martin Kershaw, for example, was last seen playing the part of Lee Konitz in the Birth of the Cool concert at the weekend, but on Tuesday he slipped elegantly into 1940s swing mode, playing some hot, sweet clarinet a la Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. His storming solo on Herman’s Apple Honey added an extra level of excitement to what was already a sensational number.
 
* First published in The Herald, Thursday July 20th
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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Birth of the Cool

Birth of the Cool, George Square Piccolo *****

Wow. Sunday evening’s concert at the smaller Spiegeltent could well turn out to be one of the top highlights of this year’s jazz festival for those of us “lucky” enough to be shoehorned into one of the wooden pews by the brigade of battleaxes running the George Square venues.
 
Celebrating the groundbreaking Birth of the Cool series of recordings, the concert reflected not only the iconic tracks laid down by the Miles Davis-led nonet from 1949 (that were eventually released as the seminal, 1957, BOTC album), but also rehearsals and broadcast material recorded by the same line-up during its brief lifespan.
 
If all this sounded like we were in for a potentially po-faced, academic project – and it certainly seemed that way when the headmasterly-looking musical director Richard Ingham was making his opening comments – then those concerns were quickly blasted away by the inadvertent comedy that ensued when a cue was missed for a re-enactment of the band’s first live broadcast. 
 
Instead, we were treated to a blissful hour of the lush, slightly ethereal harmonies featured in the distinctive arrangements and compositions of Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan et al – and it was a rare thrill to hear such classics as Jeru, Moon Dreams, Move and Godchild being played live and with such panache and obvious enjoyment by this superb nine-piece outfit which included several students.
 
The 2017 BOTC band had at its heart an A-list team of Colin Steele (trumpet), Martin Kershaw (alto sax) and Allon Beauvoisin (baritone sax), all of whom were improvising rather than recreating their terrific solos and all of whom were on top form; Steele, in the Miles Davis role, has seldom sounded better. The Cool is born again … 
* First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 18th
Birth of the Cool, George Square Piccolo, Sunday July 16th
* Boplicity
* Venus de Milo
* Jeru
* Move
* Moon Dreams
* Rocker
* Rouge
* Israel
* Godchild
* Deception
* Budo

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Review: Classic Jazz Orchestra

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

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Review: Brass Jaw

Brass Jaw, Recital Room, City Halls, Glasgow, Sunday December 4 ****

You’ve got to hand it to Brass Jaw. This Glasgow-based jazz quartet is still in its infancy but it has already established itself as an award-winning outfit – and one which has a loyal following. Which would explain why the Recital Room was packed out on a particularly miserable Sunday night in December.

The Scottish jazz world’s answer to the Fab Four seemed determined to leave no listener unconverted: after kicking off with a slow and solemn Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas they exploded into life, like a New Orleans funeral band, with a freewheeling and dynamic take on Comin’ Home Baby, which not only created an instant party atmosphere but set out the template for the way this unique band works. Baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin – a one-man rhythm section – is the glue that holds the sound together, while his bandmates, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and saxophonists Paul Towndrow and Konrad Wiszniewski, bring colour and theatricality to the proceedings – along with a hint of Marx Brothers-like mayhem.

On tune after tune – notably such funky numbers as Joe Zawinal’s Walk Tall and Horace Silver’s Senor Blues – in the first half of Sunday’s concert, it was impossible to resist the infectious joie-de-vivre emanating from this lively band. During the second set, a series of samey-sounding and occasionally rather turgid original compositions threatened to sap the party spirit but a joyous Sunny, played as an encore while the group snaked its way around the room, ensured that the night ended on a high.

* First published in The Scotsman, Tuesday December 6

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