The band were joined again by Justin Currie (in a sharp suit, sideburns and slicked back hair straight out of 1950s Glasgow), as they were at their first gig at the Jazz Festival last summer in The Old Fruitmarket. This contained much of the same material, plus some new original compositions by Ryan. These provided an interesting and notable contrast with the pieces he had arranged for Justin Currie to sing, arrangements of Justin's own material, and other popular songs such as God Only Knows and Nature Boy (the latter of which I had been looking forward to, as it was my favourite piece at last summer's concert). The big band only numbers were very much straight ahead jazz with extended solos from most members of the band at one point or another. The vocal numbers we much more clear cut and accessible for the average listener, being strongly pop influenced (naturally). Part of me thought, surely it would be better to play some more accessible pieces for the big band only ones, to appeal more to the non-jazz fans in the audience - ease them in gently as it were. But then part of me though, well, why not play this stuff to them? Broaden their horizons a bit. I think there are arguments both ways. In any case, a lot of non-jazz people are turned off particularly by extended soloing (even people who like jazz can sometimes tire of it). I'm not sure if it worked here or not. I certainly enjoyed plenty of the solos, but some more than others. We particularly liked Allon Beauvoisin's on bari, one of Paul Towndrow's on alto, and Tom MacNiven's on trumpet.
The audience, like at the Fruitmarket gig, was fairly evenly split between those who came for the big band, and those who came for Justin Currie. Judging by the levels of applause in response to the question, "clap if this is your first jazz gig", there were a fair number in that camp. About the same applauded to the question, "who here is a jazz fan?" A lot of people applauded to neither - they were either shy, or go to jazz gigs but aren't jazz fans!
We had the misfortune to be sitting behind what appeared to be five of the most dedicated Justin fans in the room. Like quite a few who were there just for him, these ladies were approaching (indeed in some cases overtaking) middle age, were overly fond of the white wine, and had a lot of perfume on. They came in late from the bar, and spend every second of the gig when Justin wasn't singing, talking, and every second when he was singing, they sat staring at him in rapt attention. They also liked to shout out responses to his chat and rhetorical questions, which I'm sure he appreciated...
To be fair, there was an equally loud and apparently tipsy contingent of Ryan's fans in the balcony and the two groups appeared to be waging a sort of battle for attention at some points. I suppose it balanced out.
Despite the constant chatter, we enjoyed the gig very much, particularly God Only Knows and Nature Boy (both the full band version and the semi-improvised quintet version played as an impromptu encore). I also like the big band arrangement of the track Buzzy Bee from Ryan's recent solo album.
There were a limited number of CDs on sale with some tracks that had been played at the gig, so I purchased one, hoping to it contained Nature Boy and God Only Knows. Unfortunately, it turned out that the disc I got was blank! Must have sneaked into the pile of burnt CDs. However, another copy is in the offing, so I'll find out sooner or later what's on it!
Edit: here is an article in the Herald about the tour, complete with bad pun in the title.