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Saturday saw the first performance of The Ryan Quigley Big Band, with guest singer Justin Currie of band Del Amitri. It was in The Old Fruitmarket. This was probably one of the most highly anticipated gigs of the festival. Ryan Quigley put together a band of world class talent from across Britain and beyond - the lineup was:

Trumpets: Ryan Quigley, Roger Ingram, Noel Langley, Bryan Davis
Trombones: Chris Greive, Phil O'Malley, Rick Taylor, Lorna McDonald
Tuba: Andy McKreel
Saxophones: Nigel Hitchcock, Paul Towndrow, Paul Booth, Konrad Wiszniewski, Allon Beauvoisin
Piano: Steve Hamilton
Bass: Mike Janisch
Guitar: Graeme Scott
Drums: Alyn Cosker

Note there was a tuba - a less frequently seen addition, but welcome!

The gig was sold out, and I'd say about half the audience were there for the big band and half for singer Justin Currie. But I think everyone enjoyed the concert as a whole. It was great to see such a large and extremely enthusiastic audience for a big band gig - it was a great atmosphere.

The band were of course amazing. They played a mix of standards, Justin Currie's own songs (all arranged by Ryan Quigley I think) and some of Ryan's own compositions including some from his most recent album, Laphroaig-ian Slip, arranged for big band. There were plenty of fantastic solos all round - one of the best / silliest moments was the four trumpet players taking about 4 bars each round in circles, which turned into a "who can play the highest note" competition! I liked Ryan Quigley's solos best of the four - his were the most melodic.

Justin Currie was an excellent singer - he has a very nice voice. I don't know anything about Del Amitri so I didn't recognise any of his songs, but he sang a very nice rendition of Nature Boy. There was also The Beach Boys song, God Only Knows. I got the impression that he didn't feel quite prepared - indeed, some of the arrangements had only been finished the previous night at ridiculous-o'clock in the morning, and I don't think he'd had much chance to see them and rehearse them. He missed one cue and made another by the skin of his teeth by running to the mic. He also accidentally unplugged the mic at one point, but luckily re-attached it in time for his entry!

All in all, one of the most exciting gigs I've been to in a while, and I hope the band don't end up being a one-off event.

Immediately following the big band was Paul Towndrow's gig to launch his latest album, Newology. It was a quick sprint to the venue for some of the musicians who were in both! It was in The Victorian Bar in The Tron, which was quite tiny. It had sold out, but a lot of people wanted in, especially after Ryan announced it at the big band gig! Eventually they compromised by opening the rear sets of doors so people in the other bar area could hear a bit.

It was also a very good gig. The group consisted of Paul Towndrow on alto, Alyn Cosker on drums, Steve Hamilton on piano, Ryan Quigley on trumpet for some numbers, Mike Walker on guitar and Mark Hodgson on bass. I was quite amused by two of the quotes in Ryan's solos - one was Star Trek and the other was the bebop number he'd been trying to teach us by ear earlier in the day at the Jazz Summer School! Excellent solos all round though. The sound guy was having a few issues with feedback, but that happens sometimes.

I got a copy of the CD. I particularly like the title track, Newology. It reminds in some ways of parts of Tommy Smith's Beasts of Scotland and of Ludovico Einaudi's Le Onde. I like that kind of thing.

Strangely, when I played it on the PC at work with Windows Media Player, it came out all distorted like the levels were too high, but I don't have that problem with any other discs. However, it's absolutely fine on the hi-fi and the Mac at home. Must be a Media Player quirk.


Jun. 29th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I didn't know Ryan Quigley had set up a big band - someone told me once that he had fallen out with Tommy Smith a while ago and was not as welcome in NSJO as his playing might warrant, so perhaps he set this up as a rival... Either way, it sounds good!

There was a tuba playing with Mingus Big Band - it had great novelty value, but I'm not sure of its artistic merit!
Jun. 29th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
I was wondering to myself how this would fit with the SNJO, and the politics of the situation. I imagine it could be a bit awkward. There were quite a few players in this band that also play in the SNJO though. In any case, one can never have too many good big bands, I say!

There was a tuba playing with Mingus Big Band - it had great novelty value, but I'm not sure of its artistic merit!

It certainly has merit in many arrangements, especially some of the Ellington works. It adds extra depth to the brass section. It's not as useful when all it does is double the bass. I think Ryan's arrangements fell into the former category.
Jun. 30th, 2009 09:17 am (UTC)
Just to clarify, I'm Ryan Quigley and i haven't fallen out with Tommy and feel very welcome in the SNJO! the tuba wasn't there for novelty value, I happen to love the sound, (check out Gil Evans, Miles Davis-Porggy and Bess). Appreciate the discussions though...cheers!
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
Ryan, hanks for clearing that up! I'd hate to spread unwarranted rumours!

And, in case you should happen by here to see if anyone responded, here's a link to pictures I have taken of you over the years - and I appreciate your playing!


bass dials

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