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The Joel Frahm & Michael Janisch Quintet

Last night at the City Halls in Glasgow was the Michael Janisch (bass) and Joel Frahm (tenor) Quintet as part of a UK tour, with Jim Hart on vibes, David Lyttle on drums, and Alex Garnett also on tenor. The gig was part of the Sunday night jazz series being organised by Jazz International, and it's proving to be a pretty successful series too. I've noticed it's quite a lot of regulars attending - I don't know if this is good or bad, but it's an audience, and that much has got to be good!

It was in the Recital Room as usual - lovely acoustics for a soloist, but a bit muddy for a band. Michael Janisch commented that it made things a little more tricky for the rhythm section at times.

The performance consisted primarily of original material, with a couple of arrangements by the band members as well. If I recall correctly, compositions were features from each of the players except the drummer. In contrast to Friday's SNJO gig, this was a night of extended complex solos for the most part, with a few exceptions. I'm still undecided on whether I like this kind of thing or not - I think I do, but I don't always pay full attention - it tends to send me off into a half-trance! It's usually very abstract, and more often than not full of very fast runs. I'd prefer if soloists slowed down and went for more melodic material over displaying technical proficiency in scales, but the latter seems to be the favoured approach of most advanced jazz musicians. I would say the most melodic solos in this gig were the bass solos, and the second bass solo, which was completely unaccompanied in part, got the biggest cheer of the night from the audience. One of the arranged pieces also began with an unaccompanied bass solo, which was very nice, and unlike many faster bass solos, you couldn't hear the noise of the strings hitting the fingerboard, which I liked - I'm not a big fan of the excess noise produced by string basses when they're played hard. I prefer tone quality every time, and that goes for all instruments.

Tone quality is a very personal matter though - of the two tenors, I preferred the tone of Alex Garnett, whereas my companion preferred Joel Frahm. I found Alex Garnett's tone to be deeper, softer and more rounded, but also (interestingly) louder. I'm informed that he was playing a 1920s (or was it 1930s?) Conn which he had purchased only a week past on eBay. I hear the mouthpiece is more significant than the body for saxophones though.

The presence of a vibraphone was nice - it's not so common, usually it's a piano as the harmony instrument. It's a very nice sound. I found some of Jim Hart's solos to be more difficult to follow than those of the other instruments, but I guess that's just his style. It was the kind of jazz that I find the rhythm generally difficult to follow at times because of it's complexity - I'm always amazed that the players know when to come back in after solo breaks! To be honest, while I think they did know where they were all the time, I'm not sure the structures of the pieces had been quite finalised beforehand! There was some signalling going on as to who was playing solos when and where the head was to be - but in a good band, this can be done ad hoc anyway. It was interesting to watch.

All in all, a very good gig, and an enjoyable atmosphere. I'm glad I went out, and I'm glad I wasn't as tired as I had been the last few evenings! I've usually recovered from the preceding week by Sunday night, just in time to go back to work on Monday!

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