Tag Archives: Stewart Forbes

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival: Tom Gordon Basie 7

Tom Gordon Basie 7, Festival Theatre Studio ****

One of the recurring themes of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival has been the lack of information in the programme – both the brochure and the website, even at the eleventh hour – about the line-ups of bands specially put together for their festival concerts. Which means it can be a bit of a lucky dip for punters who take a chance – on Friday’s set by the Richard Pite Hot Five, for example, which turned out to have such stellar talent as trumpeter Ryan Quigley in its front line, or Sunday’s set by the John Rae Experience, which had an unadvertised Brian Kellock (the same unadvertised Brian Kellock who had played with singer Anita Wardell on Friday) in its ranks.

Just as with those bands, nobody other than the leader of the “all star” Tom Gordon Basie 7 got a namecheck in the festival bumf and, again just as with those earlier gigs, drummer Gordon’s could have been better attended. His band turned out to comprise a front line mostly made up of musicians from Sunday night’s Ellington celebration: trumpeter/vocalist Georgina Jackson, trombonist Gordon Campbell, saxophonist Stewart Forbes and guitarist Duncan Findlay.

The septet served up a delightful couple of sets which elegantly evoked the sumptuous sound of small group Basie, with Euan Stevenson doing a great job in the Count’s role. As with Sunday’s Ellington show, the Basie one benefitted from the lovely, breathy vocals of Georgina Jackson, especially on a gorgeous L’il Darlin’ and God Bless the Child, and the uptempo numbers were terrific, with Tom Gordon powering the band from the back of stage and the horns swinging in perfect synch.

* First published in The Herald, Thursday July 23rd


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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2011: Ken Peplowski Ensemble Plays West Side Story

Ken Peplowski Ensemble Plays West Side Story, The Hub, Tuesday July 26th ****

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)

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News and Blues

….. Top Scots jazz singer Carol Kidd and her ace guitarist Nigel Clark release their first duo album next month. Tell Me Once Again (Linn) is an exquisite collection of ballads, bossa novas (including one by Stevie Wonder) and a Buble-inspired R ‘n’ B classic. Oh, and you might recognise the name of the writer who wrote the liner notes …

….. Carol Kidd’s onetime pianist David Newton returns to his native Glasgow on March 24 to
play a quartet gig, also featuring saxophonist Stewart Forbes, at the Glasgow Art Club – the newest old venue on the Glasgow scene. The concert is part of Bridge Jazz’s new season. Visit www.bridgejazz.co.uk for details of this and other forthcoming concerts…

…..The Norwich Jazz Party runs from April 30-May 2 this year. Among those offering the ideal alternative to the inevitable wall-to-wall coverage of a certain event on April 29 are: Marty Grosz, Ken Peplowski, Warren Vache, Alan Barnes, Howard Alden, Duke Heitger, Daryl Sherman, Bob Wilber (pictured, above, in Nairn with Andrew Cleyndert on bass), Dan Block, Rossano Sportiello, Roy Williams, Scott Hamilton, Jim Galloway and Karen Sharp.

…. The Keswick Jazz Festival runs from May 12-15 this year, and as if there wasn’t enough jazz crammed into that weekend in the shape of my favourite classic jazz band – The Hot Antic Jazz Band, from France – and such top British and American names as Alan Barnes, Karen Sharp, John Hallam, Jeff Barnhart, Wendell Brunious, Enrico Tomasso and Keith Nichols, there are also going to be some pre-festival gigs by some of them, plus the Big Chris Barber Band and the Tim Kliphuis Trio (both on May 9).

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CD Recommendations

John Sheridan’s Dream Band: Hooray for Christmas! (Arbors Records) 

Yup, it’s an early Christmas album – and an early Christmas gift for anyone who likes to keep the music swinging through the “holiday season”. Pianist/bandleader Sheridan has compiled a lovely selection of off-the-beaten-track festive songs, several of which originate in movies set at Christmas time, and assembled a terrific band to play them. Among the individual stars in this 12-piece outfit are sunny-voiced singer Rebecca Kilgore; cornettists Warren Vache and Randy Reinhart, and clarinettist/saxophonists Dan Block and Scott Robinson.

Chet Baker: It Could Happen to You (OJC Remasters) 

This classic 1958 album is one of my all-time favourites, and it’s just been reissued with two more alternate takes than when it last came out on CD. The great trumpeter and singer Chet Baker interprets a superb collection of songs in his unique, wistful way, showcasing a vocal style which is plaintive-sounding even on the uptempo tracks. Unlike the other Chet Baker vocal albums, this one features scatting – which sounds like trumpet solos without the horn.. Ace singer-trumpeter, ace quartet; a must for anyone interested in jazz.

Ehud Asherie: Welcome to New York (Arbors Records) 

Asherie is a young Israeli-born, New York-based pianist who has soaked up influence from the great Harlem stride pianists as well from the bop masters. On this beautiful solo album, he reveals the most delicate, Waller-like of touches and a lyrical style which lends itself elegantly to the 13 Manhattan-themed tracks. Highlights include the rarely heard Lovers in New York (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Manhattan Serenade, a theme used on everything from the 1936 comedy My Man Godfrey to the Tom and Jerry classic Mouse in Manhattan.

Stewart Forbes: High Five (Birnam CD) 

Scottish alto saxophonist Stewart Forbes’s memorable duo gig with pianist David Newton at the 2009 Glasgow Jazz Festival was undoubtedly the inspiration for this CD which finds him reunited with Newton, and playing duets with four other pianists – Mira Opalinska, Alan Benzie, David Patrick and Richard Michael. Forbes’s alto is forthright and feisty-sounding and, on the two Ellington numbers, he evokes beautifully the majesty of the great Johnny Hodges. The mix of pianists and moods works well, as does a two-track switch to soprano sax.

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