GLASGOW JAZZ FESTIVAL
CLOSING THE GAP
With the exception of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. French jazz remains under-appreciated in this country but the Festival gives a couple of tastes of what is happening on the contemporary scene across the Channel.
Martial Solal is one of Europe's leading jazz
musicians. a pianist of exceptional ability whose style is a unique compound of classic American jazz (notably Art Tatum and Bud Powell) with a questing intelligence which is entirely his own.
The Henri Texier Quartet is likely to be even less familiar, but it is a combination which promises much. Texier is a bass player of immense ﬂexibility, and characteristically chooses to surround himself with musicians who will benefit from the freedoms he makes possible. Clarinetist and saxophonist Louis Sclavis, who opened a few ears last year, guitarist Marc Ducret, and drummer Aldo Romano all fall into that category.
Texier and Solal do not play for those who like their music safe and predictable, and that is equally true of the visitors from across the border in Belgium and Holland. The Willem Breukcr Kollekticf. as enjoyable as they are idiosyncratic— which makes them very enjoyable indeed — and the Mondriaan Strings from Holland, plus a season of innovative and occasionally startling new
Flemish music featuring The Flat Earth Society. the eight-piece New Vivola. and Hard Score, completes a fascinating glimpse of what our closest European neighbours are up to. (Kenny Mathieson) Henri Texier Quartet, Tennean Live.’ At The Tramway, 301une; Martial Solal. Tennents Live!1 June; Flat Earth Society. Third Eye, 4July; New Vivola, Third Eye,
5 July; Hard Score, Third Eye. éluly; Willem Breaker Kollekrief/ Mondriaan Strings, Tramway, 7July.
JAZZ FESTIVAL ' '
He’s quite thlikeliest guitar hero
whose fretboard assault had the
Born out of the need for a structure that would showcase the developing talent of Britain’s young black jazz musicians, since 1985 the Jazz Warriors big band has been a flagship, a safety net and a proving ground for nearly all of the name British players of the past few years. Leading saxmen Steve Williamson and Courtney Pine, vocalist Cleveland Watkiss and vibes virtuoso Cleveland Watkiss have all passed through its ranks on the way to high-profile solo careers, and as the current line-up makes the band’s first ever visit to Scotland (The Tramway, Thurs 5 July, 7.30pm) the focus is once more thrown on a new generation of players.
Guitarist Tony Remy is typical of the new breed in the scope of his activities and the dedication he’s prepared to put into them. While his funky jazz outfit Desperately Seeking Fusion (catch
them at the Heineken Jazz Club late night on Tue 3 July) provide the main forum for his writing, he’s recently joined Steve Williamson’s increasingly exploratory quintet (‘a great teaming platform, the theory behind Steve’s new music is really challenging’), and has been part of the Jazz Warriors personnel since last July.
With trumpeter Harry Beckett and trombonist Fayyaz Virji the main writers for the big band, Remy describes the current repertoire as ‘very much African-influenced. Fayyaz is from Tanzania so the feel is very rhythmic, even in the way the brass is arranged’. While the Afro and Caribbean influences from the players’ backgrounds continues to exert a significant cultural influence on the progress of the music in Britain, the ebb and flow of the compositions allows plenty of space for the young players to show what they can do. Drummer Cheryl Alleyne, for instance, should soon be on her way to Berklee, the American jazz academy that proved crucial in Tommy Smith’s rise to power), while Remy cites Dennis Rollins’ trombone and Patrick Clahar on saxophone as ‘the kind of modern-sounding musicians who’ll take the Warriors to a whole new level.’
Fretboard ass if -. fax
really. With his big tortoise-shell glasses and ultradiflldent manner, it’s remarkable that the docile soul perched in interview position on a hotel lobby sofa is the same Bill Frisell
faint-hearted ducking for cover at the Royal Festival Hall the previous evening. When he picks up his instrument they say the spirit of Hendrix hangs over the white boy mad scientist of the contemporary guitar. ‘Uh. . . gee . . . ldunno’ ventures Bill, as ever the conversational dynamo, ‘I guess it came out of this period in the 70s when I was trying to do that really fast John McLaughlin stuff but my fingers physically just couldn’t manage it. Sol started playing maybe about ten percent of the notes he did and suddenly people were reacting like ‘Wowl look at all the space he's leaving’. I had that basic feel a while back, but forthe past ten years or so I’ve been using the volume pedal and a
lot of digital delays to get that kinda elongated sound. I think I’ve got to the point where people seem to recognise me.’
He’s right about that one. From the twangy phrases mutated from 60s surfin’ singles to the walling sonic textures and ambient shimmerings that define the state of today’s guitar art, Frisell’s mercurial and'highly individual stylings have graced albums by everyone from Jan Garbarek to Allen Ginsberg, though he singles out drummer Paul Motian as his closest musical associate. Most recently he’s been part of the electrifying hardcore-jau-kltsch interchange of New Yorker John Zom’s flaked City project (‘he brings out a harsh side of me I find scary sometimes’), but with the imminent release of his own arresting new iongplayer ‘Is That You?’ he’s back out on the road leading the quartet that’s become the main thrust of his often diverse activities.
While cellist Hank Roberts’ mishap with a frisky door has resulted in a damaged finger and reduced the Frisell outfit to a trio with longtime buddies bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Joey Baron, adapting to the enforced change has provided yet another challenge to be relished. ‘We’ve only played a couple of times so far as a threesome, but it really makes us listen hard to each other. Sure you feel klnda exposed, but by the time we reach Glasgow I think we're gonna sound real
1093mm} (TrevorJohnston) The Bill Frisell Trio plays the first day of Tennents Live! at The Tramway on Saturday 30th June.
Maynard Ferguson lf big band music conjures up mental images of the late Joe Loss ﬁlling the floors of long-defunct dance halls with Glenn Miller pastiches, then the fare on offer at the Glasgow Jazz Festival may come as a shock to the system. The conventional wisdom these days is that big bands are economically impossible to sustain, but clearly not everyone pays much attention to conventional wisdom.
Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, George Russell, Tom Bancroft, Jazz Warriors, and Bobby Watson with the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra are all happily ﬂying in the face of convention, and doing so in a healthily diverse variety of musical directions.
Composer-in-Residence George Russell’s high-octane Orchestra is likely to be the most searching of the name bands. Russell believes that his musicians should bring ‘what they have within their personal scope to the music, and I like to write in such a way that it is possible for them to express themselves, and help make a new creation each time we play.’ At a more modest level, Tom Bancroft’s imaginative arrangements will explore his interest in ‘the tension between free music and structured music’.
Dizzy’s polyglot United Nation Big Band reﬂects his belief that ‘the music of Brazil, Cuba and the USA is fast coming together, but Africa is the birthplace of all these musics.
Maynard Ferguson’s high-note acrobatics have never been a personal favourite, but his slick, youthful Be-Bop Nouveau big band will not be short on excitement. The Canadian trumpeter came to prominence in Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, and his return to big band music after several years of fusion came, he says, ’from the urge to play with other horns again.‘
Throw in the revamped and revitalised Jazz Warriors, making their Scottish debut, Carol Kidd with a full string orchestra, and John McLaughlin performing the British premiere of his ‘Mediterranean’ Concerto with the SNO (a concert shared by his Trio), and it all adds up to a very strong line-up of large ensemble jazz. Don't expect Glenn Miller, though . . . (Kenny Mathieson)
See Jazz Festival Listings page. I].
The List T9 June— 12 July 19,9017