Kenny Mathieson talks to jazzman Tommy Smith. Plus Wire, The Family Cat, Band of Holy Joy and Davy Spillane.
LISTINGS: ROCK 55 JAZZ 59 FOLK 61 CLASSICAL 63
Kenny Mathieson talks to Tommy Smith about some new directions for Scotland’s leading young
Things have always happened fast for Tommy Smith, but even by the young saxophonist‘s own precipitate standards, May is a full month. and
one in which he will move in
directions. It opens with a Mayfest residency at the Renfrew Ferry with his own band. but rather more attention is likely to focus on the release of his new Blue Note International album. Peeping Tom, and his debut as a classical composer. ‘Most of the songs on the new album were written in Gary Burton‘s basement.‘ he explains. ‘At the time, he didn‘t like any of them. but when we came to do the record. he had completely changed his mind. maybe because I was paying
him to produce it! Now he‘s
in his own band, which is great exposure. since Gary plays many more gigs than I do round the
‘I wanted more energy and rawncss. and a more direct feeling than on the first record. which is why I wanted to use my own band. Last time. I was definitely intimidated at first. I would find myself having to tell Jack DeJohnette how to play the beat I wanted, and all the time I would be
thinking “what am I doing.
I‘m standing here
telling Jack Deiohnette how to play drums!“ But they were cool about it. and ready to do what I
Tommy chose to record at the Rainbow Studio in Oslo this time, where the second album by his earlier group, Forward Motion. had been cut. and adopted the unusual strategy of abandoning
traditional studio methods.
, I/ . I i
‘I had a couple of monitors. and we all sat together. except Terje (Gewelt). who needed a really hot microphone to get that woody bass sound — otherwise. it didn‘t matter ifeverything was spilling over onto other tracks. because I never use overdubs. Everybody else used headphones. but for me. it was just like a live gig. and we all played that way. which made it very comfortable. When you put on headphones in a studio, you become too aware ofevery note you play. and you don‘t take chances.‘
Peeping Tom is a stronger. more satisfying record than S‘tep By Step. neatly balancing the demands of his characteristic concern for structure and complexity on one hand. and that raw energy on the other. On the same weekend as
the album is released. however. Tommy faces the culmination ofa quite different set ofchallenges when he plays his first classical composition, a Concerto For Saxophone and Strings. with the Scottish Ensemble, who commissioned the work after hearing him play the solo part in William Sweeney‘s Concerto for Saxophone and
Orch estra .
‘It is called Unirsi In Matrimonio (“To Be Joined Together“). and its theme is very personal to me, since it is based on my last relationship. It‘s in five movements. for myself and eleven string players. although the bass in the Ensemble has a low B string as well. which is very unusual.
‘In improvisation. you have a conversation in which everybody knows what they are talking about in terms of harmony, keys, and so on. but then they take it in their own direction. When you have to write it down for musicians to read. you first of all have to write every single note. and you have to really think about development. where it is coming from and where it is going.
‘I studied the string instruments for this, and I know what the ranges are — phenomenal compared to a saxophone — and I know not to write pianistically for them. and that you should basically try to write phrases in positions which don‘t make them move around too much. Usually you pick the registers in which each of the instruments will sing, which is why string players like to play on open strings a lot. because when they play in keys with a lot ofopen strings. they vibrate. and the overtones sing.
‘My own part is totally written. I treat things very freely. though. and there is a section. for example. where I ask them to follow my dynamics rather than give them set written ones. but it is a composed piece of music. not a jazz crossover piece. Ifyou take a very strong melody and orchestrate it badly. it will sound bad. but a weak melody with a strong orchestration can sound okay. so if you come up with a strong
orchestration on a good melody. you re
Tommy Smith Group, Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, 4-6 May; Tommy Smith with The Scottish Ensemble, Queen's Hall. Edinburgh, 13 May; RSAMD, Glasgow. 14May. Peeping Tom (Blue Note International) is released on I 4 May.
I OUHSINCEHE APOLOGIES to Renegade Promotions. The Young Gods and My Bloody Valentine torthe error which led to two gigs at Glasgow College at
Building and Printing mistakenly being listed tor Glasgow College (tormerly Glasgow College at Technology). Ho deliberate attempt to mislead was intended. The errorwas
caused by the similar names at the two venues, and stringent steps are being taken to ensure continued accuracy in the listings.
I MORE DETAILS at 'A Day tor Scotland'. to be held at Stirling's Falleninch Field on 14July. have been announced. The location, which has been chosen lor its convenience tor travellers coming from all
tour corners ot the country. will play host to Hue and Cry Hunrig, John
Martyn, Dick Gaughan, The Shamen. Fini Tribe, 7:84 Theatre Company, The John Hae Collective. Ceolbeg, Elaine C Smith. Carol Laula. Kith a Kin. Mary Sandeman. The Hamish Moore Band, Celtic Tapestry and the Alien Arts Company. Further additions will be announced in June.
The variety ot acts is intended to rellect the diversity at cultural activity in Scotland, and the event has a very prominent political purpose as well. It is, the STUC organisers say. ‘a statementtrom the people at Scotland. saying that we believe we no longergovern our own destiny, and that we should decide our own luture. We will demonstrate the depth
olieeling which exists in Scotland today tor sell-determination, and the strength oi our resolve tor change.’ Tickets. costing £5. are available lrom 11 May. and can be bought lrom Just the Ticketand Lost in Music in Glasgow and Virgin and Ripping in Edinburgh. by post trom PO Box 180. Head PostOttice. Edinburgh and by credit card (031 557 6969).
The list 4- 17 May 199051