I somehow read the train time completely wrong online and ended up getting there 20min early - this was a bit weird, since it appeared I'd gatecrashed the conference reception as a result! I felt rather out of place, but it was OK - not long to wait, and plenty of familiar faces around.
I imagine as a musician it must have been a slightly intimidating audience, being full of jazz musicians and promoters from all over Europe! But it was quite informal at the same time, with people wandering in and out to the bar and chatting in the foyer. It wasn't packed, but it was reasonably busy. The bands were presented by Stephen Duffy of Radio Scotland's The Jazz House. I think he matched the wrong instruments to the wrong names when introducing Tom Cawley's Curios, and Tom Cawley sounded a little bit miffed about it when he introduced the band himself, but perhaps he was just being humorous... *g*
First up was Stu Brown's Raymond Scott Project, which I saw before in it's entirety in the City Halls. It was amazing then, and equally so now! The technical ability is just astounding, especially the tenor playing from Brian Molley in The Penguin (which you can hear on their website). Great fun music, and it always makes me smile. Very enjoyable to listen to.
Last time I posted about Raymond Scott, I had to include the really disturbing CD cover of his album Soothing Sounds for Baby Volume 2 (6 to 12 Months). To complement this, I now give you the equally disturbing Volume 1, differing only in colour palette:
I can happily report that Stu Brown's CD of Raymond Scott's music is not quite so disturbing:
They were followed by Tom Cawley's Curios, up from England. Stephen Duffy mentioned The Bad Plus in his introduction to them and he was right - the first piece in particular definitely reminded me of them. Their music was very rhythmically and harmonically complex - impressive drum playing. No idea how they know where they are though! I liked the last of their pieces the best - more melodic and flowing than the other two pieces.
Third was The Ryan Quigley Sextet - that blew the cobwebs away! Why they thought Ryan needed a microphone, I don't know. As always, glad I wasn't sitting right in the front row *g*. He actually didn't play into the mic for a lot of it - the sound was better when he didn't, too, especially in the ballad, Embraceable You. In that piece, the mic was picking up breath and mechanical noises, but when he played away from it the tone was much cleaner and purer. It was a beautiful piece, just trumpet and piano. I particularly enjoyed the cadenza at the end - really controlled. The other pieces we more of a tour de force, the last with a particularly good solo from Paul Towndrow on alto, both pieces from his recent album Laphroaig-ian Slip.
To close the night were Bristol group Get The Blessing. I saw these guys earlier in the year at the Glasgow Jazz Festival at the Arches, and it wasn't my favourite gig. They don't really do audience interaction at all - when they do say anything, it usually doesn't make much sense. I think they try to be strange and enigmatic, but it doesn't work for me. They also play to themselves, not the audience - this is perhaps enhanced by the two horns standing either side of the stage and facing inwards most of the time. Most of their numbers I remembered from the previous gig - that says something about the music I suppose - it's very catchy. I can't decide whether I like it or not. I think I do. But, live at least, it just seems to be lacking some spark to connect with the audience. It's hard to describe.
So that was the Thursday night showcase. You can also read another review from Byas'd Opinion here.
Tonight (Friday) will feature Liane Carroll, Neon and The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra at the Old Fruitmarket, and tomorrow (also at the Old Fruitmarket) features Phil Bancroft, Rhythmica, The George Burt / Raymond MacDonald Group, Paul Towndrow and Trio VD.
I didn't get out to the jam session at the Park Hotel after, since I was heading over to Bloc to see Funkilicious (who had also been playing down near the Tron - two gigs on a work night!). Their set went down well with the audience - funky as always :). For your viewing pleasure, he is a very poor quality picture of them - I don't have the camera for low light, and a 1sec exposure makes for a fuzzy bass player *g*. Lets also ignore the chair in the middle of the floor...