GLASGOW JAZZ FESTIVAL
What kind of music do the Kronos Quartet play? ‘Kronos Music,’ says violinist David Harrington (but don’t call him leader - Kronos don’t hold with that kind ofstuff). And what is Kronos music? ‘Kronos music is what Kronos play. We don’t want other people‘s definitions.‘
Kronos music is an open-ended entity. The band — Harrington, violist Hank Dutt, cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and violinist John Sherba — play music which includes the so-called minimalism of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley, contemporary composers like Sallinen, Sculthorpe, Avro Part, and Kevin Volans, through to music by John Zorn, Ornette Coleman, and, most infamously, J imi Hendrix. ‘The only composers we loathe,’ says Dutt, ‘are dead.’
Harrington formed the original Kronos Quartet as long ago as 1973, after hearing Black Angel, a quartet by composer George Crumb, on the radio. It will be their next release on Nonesuch Records, but the group have come a long way since then. Harrington explained the delay in recording what is a seminal work for them.
‘We didn’t feel that we had enough experience working in the studio until now, and it never felt like the right time to record that piece. Black Angels uses the studio more than any other piece we have done, and we use the effects possible from the studio in a very conscious way, to the point where it becomes a fifth member of the group. We have also ﬁnally found a musical setting for it which makes the whole record feel like a complete statement.’
Kronos have become a major concert hall draw across the world, but have done so playing an uncompromisineg contemporary music that is as eclectic as it is is challenging. ‘We want to play music that is vital, red-blooded and spiritual,’ Harrington insists, ‘and tags like jazz and classical have nothing to do with the way we think. When we play music by John Zorn or Steve Reich or whoever, we think about the composer and his qualities, not any spurious categories. Music has to be a celebration of diversity, and it has to be about people.’
(Kenny Mathieson) Kronos Quartet, Tramway, 29June, 7.30pm.
Scots in the groove
This year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival brings an awesome array of the music’s major American and British-based performers our way, but as usual the event also offers a chance to place the state of jazz in Scotland into a much wider context. While the peppering of the festival's main stages by Scots talent oi national and international repute is certainly one cause for cheer, the current (and hitherto unprecedented) rush of record releases by many of those same Scots artists presents an opportunity for a cooler assessment of their progress. Certainly it’s a coup for the ever-underrated vocalist Carol Kidd to open the whole ten days with a special performance backed by a large string ensemble (Theatre Royal, Fri 29 June, 7.30pm), but on the evidence of her latest album for the Lion label it's no less than she deserves. ‘The Night We Called It A Day’ finds herioined by a new trio that features the telling Bill Evans-inspired stylings of Dave Newton‘s piano and guides her
clear-voiced interpretations of a well-chosen collection of standards to genuine depths of emotional profundity.
Yet while La Kidd's very fine set should enhance her burgeoning reputation, there’s a danger, on the other hand, that all the exposure young saxman Tommy Smith has had over the past few years might make our response to his second Blue Note International album ‘Peeping Tom’ a touch more complacent than it ought to be. The record itself should however preclude such a reaction. Joined by regular associates like pianist Jason Bebello on an imposing gathering of Smith originals, his increasingly assured tone and distinctive confidence in the upper register are the sound of a playertruly coming into his own.
0n the same bill as Tommy Smith at the all-day Tramway festivities on Saturday 30 June is the Glasgow pianist Chick Lyall, whose debut longplayer ‘The Tilting Ground’, where his keyboard work and electronic textures mesh evocatively with notable Scandinavian Tore Brunborg’s fiery sax, is one in the first of a series of releases by the new Scottish Watercourse label. The sampler album ‘Maoin’ puts the emphasis on blending traditional Scots forms with contemporary improvisation and instantly becomes an important initial document of a potentially arresting field of musical adventure.
‘Maoin’, by the way, boasts one track by the excellent John Rae Collective, now established as the most accomplished home-based
contemporary jazz group, and their own
first record ‘The Big if Smiles Again’ is due out next month on the newly-created Iona Records. In the meantime, the JRC will be appearing several times on both associated jazz festival circuits. Check the listings for further details.
A convincing candidate to take the blues into the 21st century is Kenny Neal who heads up the Kingsnake
Blues Caravan at the Tramway on 2 July
along with Lucky Peterson, who has the distinction of having recorded with the legendary Willie Dixon at the age of five. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Neal is a hard working all-rounder whose vocal, guitar and harmonica work exudes that vital guality- honsesty.
At the same reception mentioned earlier, Tam White was heard answering, affirmatively, that age-old question: can Edinburgh-born stonemasons sing the blues? Since splitting from the Dexters, Tam has been fronting a band of London-based heavyweights, including bass player 802 Burrell (of Bad Company fame) and ace trumpeter, Guy Barker. Word from Down South has it that the band is hot
and, juding by Tam’s current form, at least one of two chances aboard the Renfrew Ferry (7 and 8 July) should not be missed. Always assuming, of course, that the boat survives two nights (20 and 30 June) of Blues ’n‘ Trouble’s hard rocking’ boogie.
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Branford Marsalis comes from a New Orleans family in which musical ability seems to be as commonplace as it is exceptional. Father Ellis is a gifted pianist, brother Wynton is the best known player of his generation, brother Delfayeo a much sought after producer, and 12-year-old Jason is, by all accounts. a fearsome drummer possessed of perfect pitch. Branford, the eldest, has always seemed to lie a little in the shadow of Wynton, but that phase now seems over: Steep is out on his own as a major attraction.
That nickname, bestowed by Delfayeo, is also the title of a new video, following a string of CBS albums which ’don't sell worth a damn, so they are experimentation for me. The world has the benefit ofwatching me practice. but I feel that if the finished product is good, then all those records will be worthwhile. If the ﬁnished product is nothing, then all these records are meaningless.‘
Branford has been tagged with the ‘bop revivalist' label hung around Wynton’s neck, something he dismisses contemptuously. In fact, those ‘experiments’ reﬂect his assiduous working through a saxophone legacy toward that finished product, a distinctive Branford Marsalis sound.
A consummate technician, he gives short shrift to suggestions that his work lacks emotion.
‘1 don‘t think showing emotion is something that you learn on an instrument, that is something you learn in life. Almost everybody I read about now who is supposed to have emotion or soul, are people who don‘t have very good
control over their instruments. lam justso tired of seeing it and hearing it. No cat's going to come to me and say that [don‘t play with soul because I can play the horn better than him! That is absurd, man.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
Branford Marsalis Quartet, Tennent's Live! Atthe Tramway, lJuIy,
The List 29 June — 12 July 199019