Tag Archives: Phil O’Malley
Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra – Hot Horns, George Square Spiegeltent ***
A performance by Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra at the Spiegeltent has become an annual event at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, and it is usually accompanied by this reviewer sitting on the edge of her seat as she thrills to the lesser-played Bix or Ellington tune being lovingly and energetically recreated by the gentlemen of the band.
On Saturday evening, however, the thrills were fewer and further between than usual – despite the participation of English trumpeter Enrico Tomasso as guest star. One of the ways in which the CJO normally gets the spines a-tingling is through the terrific unison playing of members of the top-notch front line, but for much of Saturday’s concert, the ensemble playing just didn’t have the usual pizazz and was actually a bit on the raggedy side. More loose like this than tight like that, as Louis Armstrong might have said.
Nevertheless, the CJO on a slightly off day is still preferable to most alternatives, and there were treats scattered here and there through the concert, among them Dick Lee’s impish clarinet breaks and Phil O’Malley’s eloquent ones on Wild Man Blues, Lee’s funky penny whistle solo on Savoy Blues and Konrad Wiszniewski’s dynamic tenor solo on Swedish Schnapps.
As for Tomasso, he demonstrated once again that when it comes to emulating the style and sound of Louis Armstrong, he is the leader of the pack. No-one Else But You was the first of a run of tunes which burst into life as soon as he came in on trumpet.
* First published in The Herald on Monday, July 27th
Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra with Evan Christopher, Palazzo Spiegeltent, Edinburgh, Tuesday July 23rd ****
It can be a bit of a political minefield when a band which has a brace of ace soloists in its line-up is joined by a special guest: egos can be bruised as the star mops up most of the solo space assigned to his given instrument. But when New Orleans-based Evan Christopher made his debut as a guest with the Classic Jazz Orchestra on Tuesday evening, bandleader Ken Mathieson made a virtue of the fact that he now had three top clarinettists in his group.
Three clarinets playing featured together can be a thrilling sound – and, from the off, Martin Foster, Dick Lee and Christopher made a terrific trio; Foster’s lovely, grainy tone contrasting strikingly with Christopher’s sweet and hot sound on Charlie the Chulo. Dardanella featured several examples of the thrill of the clarinet trio: early on, they were seductive, playing in unison, before letting rip separately but simultaneously at the exhilarating finale. Sidney Bechet’s Moulin a Café also climaxed with a showstopping three-way dialogue between Foster, Lee and Christopher.
Other highlights included trombonist Phil O’Malley’s spare and elegant contribution to Mood Indigo and tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski’s slinky solo on Barney Bigard’s Lament for Javanette.
Indeed, Mathieson quipped that Barney Bigard’s estate would be having a bumper night, royalties-wise, but it was Jelly Roll Morton’s which received the bigger boost since the CJO performed a string of Morton numbers, including a couple which had never been played before – anywhere. None of these proved as electrifying, however, as an impromptu Blue Horizon in which Christopher, soloing with rhythm section, wowed the audience with a masterful display of his sultry, southern-drenched sound.
* First published in The Herald, Thursday July 25
To read my review of this concert, click here
Five days into the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and even the most seasoned campaigner can begin to lag. Thank the lord, then, for Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra and its Beiderbecke-heavy Tuesday evening programme. There is nothing like a blast of Bix to buoy this girl’s flagging spirits – and the CJO obliged, in style, serving up so many uplifting and jubilant 1920s hits that it was almost impossible to resist the urge to rouge one’s knees, bob one’s hair and embark on a dance marathon with gay abandon (if not a gay friend).
The Beiderbecke repertoire is packed with gems which Mathieson has dusted off and lovingly arranged for his eight-piece band, and it’s always a delight to hear them being played with so much panache and enthusiasm – and especially by such terrific younger players as trombonist Phil O’Malley and tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski.
One of the particular joys of the CJO’s interpretations of Bix music is the way in which the cornettist’s unforgettable and often exquisite solos have been retained and arranged for the entire outfit to play, often in unison – and, on Tuesday, a highlight was the famous I’m Comin’ Virginia solo which trumpeter Billy Hunter began on his own before being joined by le tout ensemble.
Other stand-outs in this Bix bonanza were From Monday On, Ostrich Walk and There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears which featured a dazzling solo from Wiszniewski who was also memorably showcased on Buddy Tate’s Idlin’ – from the non-Beiderbecke part of the programme.
First published in The Herald on Thursday, July 26th
There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears
Old Stack O’Lee Blues
Big Butter and Egg Man
I’m Comin’ Virginia
Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down
Can’t We Be Friends
From Monday On
Jack the Bear
Singin’ the Blues
If Ken Peplowski and Brian Kellock send in notes from their mothers to excuse them from the rest of the jazz festival, it would be perfectly understandable – given the amount of energy and sweat expended at Tuesday night’s concert of the music from West Side Story.
For clarinettist and tenor saxophonist Peplowski, as musical director, the pressure was on to pull off a series of challenging arrangements of Leonard Bernstein’s notoriously tricky and demanding music. (“On second thoughts, I should have told the jazz festival we’d do the tribute to Kid Ory,” he quipped, as he mopped his brow after the exhilarating opener, Prologue.) It’s safe to say that they succeeded – though some of the arrangements worked better than others.
For Kellock, who barely had the chance to pause for brow-mopping, the concert called on him to unleash his inner pianistic demon. “Representing the Jets – Brian Kellock,” was Peplowski’s introduction, and the pianist certainly seemed to be in killer mode, particularly on the electrifying Jet Song; America, where singer Clairdee’s renditions of the verses were broken up by frenzied, feverish attacks on the ivories by Kellock, and I Feel Pretty, one of the numbers which showed everyone off to best advantage and boasted a terrific solo by Peplowski himself.
Leonard Bernstein’s music is notoriously tricky and demanding, so it was no surprise to find that the Peplowski Ensemble comprised some of Scotland’s best jazz players – notably Stewart Forbes, who turned in a superb alto sax solo on Jet Song, trombonist Phil O’Malley and drummer Tom Gordon.
(First published in The Scotsman, Thursday July 28th)
Having two young children, my gig-going tends to be confined to their sleeping hours – outwith festival season, at least. So it was a real treat to be able to sneak through to Edinburgh for an afternoon of jazz that stretched well into the evening. The reason for my Sunday leave? A barely-publicised concert in the basement of Ryan’s (across from the Caledonian Hotel) by the ace American guitarist Howard Alden, whose seven-string wizardry is very familiar to Edinburgh jazz fans, and singer Jeanne Gies – a new name to Scottish audiences.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’m always wary of new singers, especially singers who are performing with much better established instrumentalists. Let’s face it, we’ve all been at gigs where we’ve wished someone would lock the singer in the ladies’ so we can hear the rest of the band better.
However, all fears were allayed when Gies revealed a cool, airy and lovely voice which was at its most appealing on ballads. Stand-outs were I’m Going to Laugh You Right Out of My Life, which set out Gies’ stall as an eloquent storyteller, a bossa nova version of My Foolish Heart, and probably the only live versions of More Than You Know and How Long Has This Been Going On I’ve ever heard performed with their exquisite verses.
On faster numbers and songs in which Gies jumped about a bit musically, her animated body language – flailing elbows and busy hands – was a little distracting. But that was the only negative in a couple of sets which also showcased Alden’s lyricism and dexterity, notably on the well-titled Tricky Little Devil and a faster-than-the-speed-of-light I Got Rhythm.
And as if that wasn’t enough, it transpired that the Sunday early evening slot (5.30pm-8.30pm) at Ryan’s is usually occupied by none other than the brilliant Brian Kellock who plays the grand piano there for three hours every week, accompanied by Phil O’Malley (trombone) and Ed Kelly (bass).
Kellock, who was recently nominated for the award of Best Jazz Musician of the year in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, was in great form – notably on a rollicking Tea for Two, an intense and hard-swinging Whisper Not and the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic Wave which was distinguished by a particularly densely layered Kellock solo (as well as by O’Malley’s lyrical trombone work).
Now, about moving the offspring’s bedtime to 4pm every Sunday …