Tag Archives: Recital Room
Stu Brown’s Twisted Toons,Recital Room, Glasgow, Saturday June 28th ****
It was impossible not to be charmed by the Twisted Toons concert at the Recital Room on Saturday evening. Not only is drummer Stu Brown an extremely engaging and amiable host, but his passion for Raymond Scott’s cultish compositions – which were used in dozens of classic Warner Bros cartoons as well as the more recent Ren and Stimpy animations – and the performances of them by a septet comprising A-list Scottish jazz musicians make an irresistible combination. That said, however, a little of the Scott repertoire goes a long way…
The opening numbers were highly enjoyable. Jungle Medley was a collection of pieces from Looney Tunes cartoons by Carl Stalling which segued into Scott’s swinging, vaguely early-Ellingtonian composition Dinner Time For a Pack of Hungry Cannibals and featured a superb hot clarinet solo by Martin Kershaw. Scott’s spooky Goblins in the Steeple was another gem, thanks to the terrific ensemble work and a stylish solo by trumpeter Tom MacNiven. The septet sound – of clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, violin, piano, bass and drums – on this number, the playful arrangement and the classy playing brought to mind some of the brilliant work of some of Marty Grosz’s modern-day small, 1920s-style, groups which blend zingy, witty arrangements with top drawer soloing.
Less appealing, however, were full-length cartoon scores – perhaps they would work better if accompanying a screening of the cartoons. The complete scores are too disjointed, and their jazz and tuneful elements too scattered to be satisfying listening on their own for the lay person.
* First published in The Scotsman, Monday June 30th
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
Had it not been for Julie Andrews and a weekly pile of ironing, Janet Seidel, who is currently touring the UK, might not have become the renowned singer and pianist that she is. The glamorous fiftysomething given the title of First Lady of Jazz by critics in her native Australia only discovered her singing voice thanks to the LP of the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady, which she listened to every time she carried out her weekly chore – of doing her family’s ironing.
“I’ve got four brothers – I was the only girl – and I used to listen to that record over and over again while I was ironing their shirts. So when my school said
they were going to stage My Fair Lady, I thought: ‘Gosh, I can sound exactly like Julie Andrews.’ So I auditioned and got the role, and I’m so grateful because that experience gave me the chance to conquer my shyness: I put the pancake make-up on and I became Eliza Doolittle, not Janet Seidel.”
Brought up on a dairy farm near Adelaide, Seidel had been playing piano from an early age and was regularly “shuffled out to play pieces for my granny”. Her natural shyness didn’t prevent her from playing piano but it took a while for her to sing as she played – after all, she had to be herself, not Eliza, in that context. “It was a leap of faith, really,” she says.
In her late teens and early twenties, while she was studying classical music at university in Adelaide, Seidel formed a band with two of her brothers. “We did everything from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo to Suzi Quatro songs. I had a keyboard and we’d play country dances and all sorts of gigs.” Even now, she still works with one of her brothers: David Seidel is the bass player in her current trio.
During Seidel’s university years, piano bars became all the rage – and proved to be a lucrative way of subsidising student life, though it took a bit of getting used to. Seidel explains: “I was so used to having my brothers there on guitar and bass, and to being surrounded by friends. For this solo gig, I had to expand my repertoire and learn how to interact with strangers – the idea of the piano bar is that people come in and sit around the piano bar and want to talk to you. It really was a baptism of fire but it served me well. Back then, you could get work anywhere in the world just playing piano and singing.”
To begin with, she played poppier material – Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell and Carole King were her favourite songwriters – but she soon graduated on to the Great American Songbook and since then, it has interested her “almost exclusively”.
Seidel first heard jazz on the radio when she was still at school. “The ABC had a programme, Music to Midnight, which I used to listen to – and that’s how I first heard Nat ‘King’ Cole and Blossom Dearie.” Both of these great singer-pianists proved highly influential – but the girlish-sounding Dearie especially so. The jazz writer Whitney Balliett once said of her “tiny” voice that, without a microphone, “it wouldn’t reach the second floor of a doll’s house”.
During her student days, Seidel had the chance to see Dearie perform – and it proved to be a defining moment. “She came to Adelaide as the support artist for Stephane Grappelli who was on an Australian tour. She did a solo thing in the first half and it was just magical, you know – one of those spine-tingling moments.. I’d always been a bit ashamed of my voice – it wasn’t a huge operatic voice, and it wasn’t a big mama kind of belter. Then I heard Blossom’s fairy-like voice and I thought: ‘She’s so delicate and intimate, and still communicating that way without doing anything silly with her voice.’ And I loved the way she played piano.”
Peggy Lee’s recordings also helped shape Seidel’s soft and gentle style. “I read in a book that, before she became a star, Peggy was singing in a bar and there was a lot of loud noise. She decided that she would sing a bit more softly to see if it would quieten the crowd down, and it worked.”
Seidel toured Scotland a couple of years ago with a show of Blossom Dearie songs, but she’s not the only heroine to whom she has paid tribute: Doris Day is another favourite and she takes comparisons to Day as a great compliment. “She was a very tuneful and very swinging jazz singer – she really knew how to phrase and she had a lovely light lilting kind of approach to singing.”
Recently, Seidel was hired to sing a jingle for an Audi advert, to be broadcast on British television. For that, she was called upon to sing like Julie London – with whom she bears a strong vocal resemblance. “She was a big influence on me. I love that cool, unfussed style and the timbre of her voice – it’s a very caressing sound without being forced or deliberately sexy.”
A Julie London tribute may be the next obvious step, but for this tour, Seidel is celebrating Johnny Mercer’s songbook, including the ballad Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home – a song which would be apt for any jazz musician, let alone one who’s on an eight-month house-swap ….
* Janet Seidel Trio plays Recital Room, Glasgow on Thursday, March 15, at 7.30pm. Call 0141 353 8000 or visit http://www.glasgowconcerthalls.com for tickets.
Blimey, that’s it. I can die happy. I’ve just enjoyed the most sublime seventy minutes of my recent life.. thanks to American cornettist Warren Vache’s duo gig at the Glasgow Jazz Festival with the Scots piano wizard Brian Kellock.
This pair haven’t played together as a duo in almost a decade, which could explain why sparks flew during the concert, notably on a fast My Shining Hour and an equally speedy End of a Love Affair; both numbers distinguished by Kellock’s incendiary playing – outlandish, inventive and flamboyant. It acted as a touchpaper for Vache’s solos which were nothing short of dazzling, particularly on an unaccompanied section of End of a Love Affair.
However, it was the ballads that will live on in the collective memory. I’ll Be Seeing You (possibly the first live version of it that I’ve ever heard) was lifted first by Kellock, with his delicate, gentle and achingly lovely solo which was the essence of minimalism, and by Vache’s similarly poignant solo, an improvement on the original melody.
On a playful Tea for Two, the pair were so utterly in synch in their thinking and so complementary in their playing that it was difficult to believe that they hadn’t been playing it together for years. Mind you, that applied to all the tunes they played – though they wouldn’t have sounded as fresh and thrilling if they had been tried and tested.
The highlight of the evening was a heart-meltingly gorgeous interpretation of Irving Berlin’s ballad What’ll I Do? I have to confess that it was my request – and it exceeded expectations. Vache dished up the most beguiling and tender solo, and Kellock, in a supporting role, gave it the perfect setting. It truly was a thing of rare beauty – I just wish someone had recorded it.
Monday, July 4
Over the weekend, I was asked for some of the titles of numbers that were played on Thursday so I’ve decided to start publishing a complete list of tunes played at each concert I go to.
* You and the Night and the Music
* What’ll I Do? (request)
* Tea for Two
* My Shining Hour
* I’ll Be Seeing You
* End of a Love Affair
* The More I See You
* Body and Soul
* Skylark (request)
* We’ll Be Together Again
Daryl Sherman, the Manhattan-based singer and pianist who made her Glasgow debut in the City Halls Recital Room on Sunday, must have tripped back to her hotel a very happy lady. Why? Because she had the most enthusiastic response to her performance that I think I’ve seen at that venue.
Sherman has a girlish, Blossom Dearie-esque voice which is not every jazz fan’s cup of Earl Grey (it didn’t do anything for the aficionada sitting next to me – at least at the outset) , but she also has impeccable taste – which is a rare attribute these days.
Not only was her choice of material first-class but the atmosphere she created also distinguished her gig from most others. It was relaxed and fun, but there was no sense that the concert had been thrown together – as can often be the case when a visiting soloist throws his or her lot in with local musicians.
Mind you, Sherman had selected the ideal local musicians for her easygoing style and penchant for the less well-thumbed pages of the Great American Songbook. She really couldn’t have asked for better accompaniment than she got from bassist Roy Percy and, especially, the great guitarist Nigel Clark – both of whom gamely, and stylishly, joined her on a string of songs which they had probably never had call to play before.
Flying Down to Rio (from the Astaire-Rogers movie of the same name), Getting To Know You (The King and I) and Jeepers Creepers (from Goin’ Places) were all ensemble treats featuring Sherman’s vocal and pianistic talents.
On How Insensitive, she stepped into Carol Kidd’s shoes by duetting memorably with Nigel Clark. The results were sublime – Sherman’s vocals (which sounded deeper when she was singing in what I assume was Portuguese) and Clark’s sensitive guitar playing were a perfect match.
As were the vocal duets with guest artist Todd Gordon – playful versions of Fly Me to the Moon and Manhattan, both dished up with rarely-performed verses.
By the end of the night, Sherman had made herself more than a few new fans – and I think you could safely say she’ll be back.