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Well, Hi

I've been absent from here for a while - I've been busy growing a small person inside. It's due out soon, so no doubt I'll be even less here then.

Anyway, it's the Glasgow Jazz Festival this week! Brass Jaw have been all over the place promoting it too - to London and back playing in stations, and playing on a city tour bus. Hopefully their opening gig tonight sold out and went well!

Speaking of selling out, the Federation of the Disco Pimp / James Taylor Quartet / Craig Charles gig on Friday is now sold out. I was looking forward to this most of all the gigs :(. I suspect it's sold out because it's been moved from the Fruitmarket (which is large) to this mysterious Rio Club "pop-up" venue (which I bet is small). This sucks. I don't know what's going on with this Rio Club thing - it was suddenly just mentioned recently, and it's been very non-obvious that things have been moved (not helped by booking systems listing the same gig at the same time in both the original venue and the new venue). It also appears to be under Merchant Square, or something? Anyway, I think there's more to this than meets the public eye. It's all very strange. Surely they had booked the Fruitmarket ages ago? Is there not a large cancellation fee?

Also, while I'm kind of complaining, there are a lot of overlapping gigs again that I'd have liked to see otherwise. As a result, I'll probably only be going to one or two gigs for the whole festival instead of four or five. Such is life. I've heard similar complaints from others.
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Upcoming Gigs

Well, it's been a while. Things have been crazy busy as usual, and work on top of it all leaves little time (or indeed, awakeness) for going to gigs sometimes, or writing stuff here. I'm thinking there's not going to be too much on here for a bit also because we're expecting a baby soon and my hands are going to be pretty full... Anyhow, here are a few upcoming gigs worth catching (in chronological order).

Courtney Pine
Fri 2nd March, 1pm
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

The saxophone legend will be performing a lunchtime concert at the Academy Conservatoire with students and staff from the jazz course. I would be there if it wasn't lunchtime on a weekday! Tickets £9.50.

Corrie Dick Quartet
Fri 2nd March, 9pm
The Jazz Bar

Young Glasgow drummer Corrie Dick is back up from London for this gig, and will be playing with his quartet in the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh, featuring Sam Rapley on tenor, Matt Robinson on piano and Conor Chaplin on bass. They'll be playing a mix of standards and original material - tickets £4/£3.

Ryan Quigley Big Band: Maynard Ferguson Tribute
Thu 15th March, 7:30pm
The Ferry

"Ryan Quigley and Glasgow Jazz Festival present the Ryan Quigley Big Band - A Tribute to Maynard Ferguson. This Big Band concert is a full-blooded tribute to Quigley's hero, high energy trumpet master Maynard Ferguson, so fasten your seatbelts!"

I've seen this one before - well worth catching! A very fun gig, and the band we're also loving it last time! Tickets £12 in advance, £15 on the door.

SNJO With Randy Brecker
Sat 26th May
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra will be celebrating the music of the late Michael Brecker with his brother, Randy Brecker. Looking forward to this one!

I had intended to go see the SNJO with Peter Erskine and the music of Weather Report this evening, but hints of the migraine headache from earlier in the week are creeping in and I have no wish to spend another two days in bed...
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Mingus on Mingus

So there's a project in the works to create a documentary film about the great bass player Charles Mingus. It's being made my his grandson (also a bass player) and his discovery of his grandfather's legacy. Looks interesting. They do, however, need to rise the funds to continue making it, so feel free to contribute to the cause if you feel so inclined.

Video link - for some reason, the iframe HTML tag doesn't generally work on Livejournal. Rather annoying.

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Celtic Connections

The festival for January has been launched recently. A few gigs have caught my eye - the outstanding Federation of the Disco Pimp are playing twice - solo at Brel on Sat 28th Jan at 3pm, and with Smoove & Turrell on Sat 4th Feb at The Arches, 7:30pm. Their live gigs are something else!

Singer Maria Speight brings her quartet to Brel on Sat 4th Feb at 3pm, and on Sat 29th at The Arches, Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas will be performing at The Arches, 7:30pm!

Finally, the stand out gig on the list for me - Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, including the amazing Victor Wooten on bass (and his highly entertaining brother Roy "Futureman" Wooten on his drumitar). That's Thu 19th Jan, GRCH, 7:30pm. We saw these guys at The London Jazz Festival a couple of years back and it was excellent.

Unfortunately for me, I'm away for every single one of these! Oh well.
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Response: Bill Wells

I recently posted regarding an interview in The Guardian with Bill Wells. Mr Wells didn't like what I'd posted, so in the interests of balancing things out and allowing everyone to have their say, particularly in regard to criticism, here is his response to that post. Thank you for taking the time to respond! Feedback and discussion is always good.

"I'm not really sure if I'd totally agree that's what the article implied, but I do appreciate that you posted my comment and encouraged dialogue.

"For a start you should realize that the entire focus of my life is on music, and between the years '87 - '97 that involved leading an eight piece band, which I had (rashly) chosen as my medium for expression, in the Scottish Jazz scene. Anyone who knows me or played in that band can confirm the amount of work and determination that involved. My general recollection of that time was that, despite making some of the best music of my life with some of the best musicians, it was ultimately a dispiriting and difficult period for me mainly because of the attitude of the one or two promoters who had more or less a monopoly over the scene.

"I initially approached Roger Spence of Assembly Direct in '87 asking about a gig and continued to ask him, till eventually, and under pressure from various funding organizations which I had by that time complained to, he gave me one, ten years (!) later in '97, that was the same year that having won an award at the Glasgow Jazz Festival previously in '96, I was informed that would not be invited to play there again the following year.

"At that point in time to say I was disheartened would be something of an understatement, I simply felt I could go no further where I was, made a very conscious decision not to be involved with the Scottish Jazz scene any longer and to find other avenues for my music and, looking back, I certainly don't regret that decision.

"However I still think that what I do has at least much of it's roots in Jazz and I do often work with some great 'name' Jazz players so,quite recently, just in the past couple of years I have approached eg. Jill Rogers at the Glasgow Jazz Festival and Bill Kyle at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh but have, despite, the level of success I feel I've achieved, still yet been met with apparent complete indifference by these people.

"Does that mean I have a chip on my shoulder about it all ? well ... perhaps it does, but, I mean, given that I spent my whole life in the pursuit of some kind of excellence in making music, who wouldn't resent that kind of continuing blinkered and unsympathetic attitude over the space of nearly 25 years ?

"As for the remark about there not being many interesting people, it wasn't petulance, that's just the way I see it, and the main point I was trying to make was that surely someone doing something original should actually be given preference over, as far as being helped, supported and promoted, those who use already existing blueprints to make their music on?"

    [Bill Wells, August 2011]
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Just a quick note to say that I'm shortly going to be disabling all comments except for logged in users from here on - the amount of spam I'm getting in comments is getting really annoying. It's screened automatically to you guys, but I get it all dropping into my email inbox and it's annoying. However, on the Livejournal homepage you can log in with your Facebook account, Twitter account, OpenID, and more. You don't have to sign up to LJ.

Because of the spam, and because of the yearly cost to keep this blog ad free and fully customised in layout, I may, at some point in the future, transfer it to a different provider, maybe Wordpress or something similar. I'll see - it'll take a bit of time, and there are downsides to changing, as well as good points.

But it'll stick around on LJ for now.
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Stax Museum of American Soul

[Photo from our trip to New Orleans & Memphis last October]

On Sunday past we went up to Perth for the evening to hear the Stax legends Eddie Floyd, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn (who can't be mentioned without their nicknames) along with the somewhat younger Lester Snell (keyboards) and Steve Potts (drums). It was part of the Southern Fried Festival of American Roots Music.

The support was from English country/soul group Phantom Limb, who were very good - an interesting mix of styles, and a fantastic singer (although, as G thought, a voice wasted on country :D).

The Stax guys were fantastic, though! Their set was about 1hr 45min without a break, and the first half was instrumental only - Eddie Floyd didn't join them until about half way through. The instrumental set consisted primarily of Booker T & The MGs material, with Lester Snell admirably filling taking on the role of Booker T. The pieces were all well known, including Soul Limbo which they knew had been used all over the cricket, and were somewhat amused by. The set also included Hip Hug Her, which I particularly like since it's on the Northern Exposure TV show soundtrack :).

They did seem a little bit uncomfortable on that large stage without a singer, and the pieces were straightforward renditions, often almost exactly as on recordings, but a little bit lacking in energy and flare. However, when Eddie Floyd bounced on stage with little or no announcement, everything moved up a gear. The band were far more in their element accompanying a singer, as would have been their primary role over the years at Stax, and their playing became more complex and interesting as well as they relaxed.

Eddie Floyd's energy was boundless - despite being 75, he has the voice and energy of a 30 year old. Unlike many older musicians, his voice sounds as good as it ever did, and he really worked the crowd. He managed to get people up dancing a bit straight away, and by the end of his set had most of the hall on their feet (our only gripe about this gig was the formal, fully seated nature of the venue - it really needed to be a standing gig). Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn were solid in their backings - Dunn's bass playing is not full of smart licks and fancy pyrotechnics, but is a very distinctive and steady, solid sound and style - exactly what that sort of music requires behind the singer. Steve Cropper played in eaxctly the style you'd expect from him, with many of the same licks and turns of phrase as you hear on his recordings.

They covered lots of Stax classics, including Floyd's own iconic Knock On Wood, and finishing with Soul Man as their encore (they had promised to do a Blues Brothers number earlier!). This wan't a gig of musicians expanding their repertoire and throwing in a few familiar numbers just to keep the crowd happy - this was musicians playing the same stuff they've been playing for near on 50 years because they know that's what the audience wants to hear, and they are playing for the sole purpose of entertaining the audience. You don't get that so much, really - it's in a musician's nature to want to keep trying new things, and I imagine it can get pretty dull playing the same stuff for so long, but the audience certainly appreciated it! This is a band that exists for the audience, not the other way round.

It was a fantastic gig - to see these guys, who are living legends if you're into soul music, playing the material you love and only hear as recordings from the (for us) rather distant past - it was an event I won't forget. We are very lucky to still have the opportunity to see musicians like this, from an era which occured well before we were born, but from which we love the music nonetheless.
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Bill Wells

Chip on shoulder, no?

I'm not a pro musician, but I would guess the way to get invited to play jazz gigs involves years of hard work including self-promotion, putting on your own gigs, networking and generally involving yourself as much as possible in the scene, not just waiting for someone to invite you. Judging from this article, Wells seems to focus on other genres a lot more than jazz, where it would seem he's pretty successful, and sincerely, all the best to him in these enterprises.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but a line like, "There are not even that many interesting people up here." (referring to the Scottish jazz scene) does just sound rather petulant!
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Gretchen Parlato

On Saturday we went to see Gretchen Parlato at The Tron before we had to go and play a gig. It was the day of the biggest Orange March - fortunately we missed it, but there were three separate jakeys just lying on the pavement within three blocks of each other near High Street. Typical. One could almost still lift a bottle but the others weren't even conscious. Orange March days are carnage. The organisers proclaimed it a great success - there were "only" 32 arrests. *head-desk*

Anyway, the gig was really good. We went on a whim, not knowing her material at all, and it was well worth it. The band were really excellent - all top notch players: Taylor Eigsti (piano and keyboard), Alan Hampton (string bass and acoustic guitar) and Clarence Penn (drums). Their playing was subtle, complex and understated, yet still powerful. Eigsti used plenty of tricks with the piano, including playing it like bongos with the lid down and dropping sheets of music onto the strings, but it was never cheesy. His use of the keyboard (Nord, naturally) was restrained and really added to the music. He often played both piano and keyboard at once. Penn was very varied in his drumming and it just goes to show, as you so often see with jazz drummers in particular, that the drums do indeed have more than one volume setting.

Gretchen Parlato herself has a lovely voice - generally soft and subtle, always perfectly pitched (even without any obvious reference notes at the start of songs) but with one or two hints of power which she generally didn't use. I suspect she could though - I wish we'd been able to see the Ryan Quigley Big Band later that evening with it's Motown theme at which I heard she was singing.

I didn't really know most of the songs she did - some were original, some were not, but all were her own unique take on them. She also played some hand-held percussion occasionally - her sense of rhythm is impeccable.

It was a really nice gig - well worth seeing if you get a chance. Here is a review from Byas'd Opinion, here is one from Rob Adams at The Herald (you'll need to register) and here is one from the blog of Raymond Soltysek (not a blog I'm familiar with).

After that gig, we were playing with the soul band in Sloans for our singer's birthday - I think we were enjoying ourselves a lot more than the audience! It was too hot, and the room was quite small so very loud. On the way home at 2am there was a magnificent display of noctilucent clouds, best I've ever seen - we stopped up on the moors to get a photo. This is looking north over Glasgow at 2:15am.

Noctilucent Clouds Over Glasgow
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Federation of the Disco Pimp & Craig Charles

And in complete contrast to the preceding gig (Ramsey Lewis)...

We'd been looking forward to this one for months! The funkiest band in Glasgow with a live set, followed by Craig Charles (yes, that Craig Charles) doing a DJ set under the umbrella of his BBC 6Music Funk & Soul Show.

Still in the Fruitmarket, the Federation kicked off with more funk that you'd know how to deal with and the dance floor filled immediately (the venue had left all the cabaret seating out for some reason, but there was about enough space in front). They were absolutely on fire - best and tightest we've heard them, and that's saying something! Music to make you happy :). They are all fantastic musicians - you can't pick one over another as standing out. If anything, the drummer gets less credit than the rest, not having any solos and being a bit hidden at the back.

They played primarily original material, all upbeat for dancing. There was a cover of Pinball Number Count (from Sesame Street, sung on the show by The Pointer Sisters and here with vocals from the Federation in a similar octave!) which is eminently amusing and excellent at the same time. The sound was well and truly fixed for this gig - all the bass and balance you could ask for.

The set was not too long - maybe about 45min or so, since they were opening for Craig Charles really. He was in the audience briefly while they were playing. He came on stage for his set wearing a Guy Fawkes-eque mask with a red face and coloured stripes over the head - I don't know what that was all about, it was a bit creepy - but it came off after the first track anyway and didn't go back on until the last.

I had thought it was going to be more of a live recording of the radio show, or at least something similar, but it was in fact an actual DJ dance set of back-to-back tracks. But they were good tracks. He started with a bass and drums heavy version of Superstition and settled into more dance-style tracks (with plenty of horns and interest of course), but after a while he moved into more soul and older music, complete with a Sam & Dave runs of songs at one point. I don't do dancing (except ceilidhs) and I don't do nightclubs, but I loved this. We sat and enjoyed it thoroughly - I had a big grin on my face the whole night, and it was great to see people enjoying themselves so much.

Easily the best gig of the festival for me, no question.