Kenny Mathieson speaks to cool Craig McMurdo about That Swing Thang’s latest long-player, and to dextrous Tam White about his acting role in Wreck 0n the High way.
LISTINGS: ROCK 31 JAZZ 34 FOLK 38 CLASSICAL 39
from the wreckage
Kenny Mathieson talks to Edinburgh Bluesman Tam White on the eve of his acting debut
Followers of the up and down career ofsinger Tam White may have had cause to wonder just where the Edinburgh bluesman had disappeared to in the past couple of years. His jazz-influenced Tam White and the Dexters had become a major draw in Scotland during the 19805, and had grown to a ten-piece outfit at the height of its popularity.
Out of the blue, and partly preciptated by the departure of trombonist and band arranger Brian Keddie for other climes, Tam disbanded The Dexters in 1988, and decided to look elsewhere for a new challenge. Around that time, he had fallen into the company of a couple of London based musicians, former King Crimson bass man Boz Burrell and saxophonist Pat Crumly.
A band was duly formed, and the initial quintet — this has a familiar ring to it — hasnow grown into a spanking eight-piece unit with the kind of horn section (Crumly. trombonist Richard Edwards and trumpet maestro Guy Barker) most band-leaders would kill for.
An eight-piece band, even one as good as this, is not an easy thing to find gigs for, and progress on that front has been slow. They have, however, made inroads at Ronnie Scott‘s, where they are now firmly established as both headliners and major favourites, as anyone who has caught them there will testify. Glasgow had their first taste of
the new hand during the Jazz Festival, and Edinburgh is next on the agenda. where they will share a bill with the great Mose Allison during the McEwans International Jazz Festival.
Before then. however, the nation will have had the chance to enjoy the singer‘s first real acting role. Tam has already supplied Big Jazza‘s voice in the celebrated Tutti Frurii, but goes a step further with a briefon-stage appearance as a club singer in the forthcoming feature film Paper Mask, to be shown during the Edinburgh Film Festival, and a further step beyond that in Sandy Johnson's The Wreck ()n The Highway, to be screened on BBC-l on 2 August as part of the new Play On One season. Tam features in the lead role as a down-on-his-luck country singer.
‘I think I was recommended by Chris Harley. who wrote the incidental music. Sandy was looking for somebody with an Edinburgh accent. so he called and asked if I was interested. He asked me if I could act. and I asked him if I was getting paid! I play a country singer who had a hit
in the 1960s. but then went on the skids for a while, and is now trying to get back in the business. It‘s a good human interest story, basically about a guy who has had a few hard times, some ofhis own making.‘
As Tam himselfsays. the character is quite close to home. Since quitting drinking eight years ago. however. the singer has applied himself to building a reputation based on his performance rather than his behaviour, and his music is now at a higher level than at any time in his career.
The new band mix Tam‘s favoured blues register (although his singing style has always included inflections more reminiscent ofTom Waits or Captain Beefheart) with a range of diverse inﬂuences, from jazz. latin. funk and rock. Tam's own commitment is matched by that ofsome of the busiest session musicians in the country, who enjoy the freedom to play and enjoy themselves which the imaginative arrangements allow.
"The music has changed quite a bit over the two years, but there are a couple of things we are working on that are even stranger, including a poem by Alan Bold, an old mate of mine, called Mad Sam, which we will basically perform as a recitation in a musical setting, although I have written a wee musical hook to
sing at one pomt.‘
When gigs have been slow to come, Tam has not been adverse to returning to his trade as a stonemason, the rigours ofwhich trade furnished one of the new songs he has written for the band, ‘Stonemason’s Blues'. Recently, however, the singer turned down a lucrative advertisement opportunity.
"The money was good.‘ he admits, ‘and I could use it. but the catch-line they wanted me to sing was just too silly. In the old days I would have done it and taken the money. but I have been working for eight years to get this music together, and I am very serious about it. It‘s not for sale in that way.‘
Wreck ()n The Highway, BBC-l, 2 August. 9.30pm; Tam White's Blues Night. Jazz Pavilion. Meadowhank, 23 A ugusl. 9pm—2am (ticketsfrom EIJF. 0315571642).
amrsnoso ASalong 'Apfly named "I'heCooIer'.
~overdue antidote to the the refurbished basement often sauna-like features a grand’s worth of temperatures of the main ice-fans. a well stocked bar,
and- for the musicians among us- adjoining state L of the art dressing rooms complete with shower
gig-hall. Edinburgh's Venue this month unveils a brand new. air-conditioned downstairs bar and retreat.
facilities. Which all goesto i make the Venue the hottest, and coolest. night spot in town. I suppose.
I EDINBURGH ROCK WEEK is the brainchild of Lothian based Streets Ahead Music, and will run from 12 Aug tot Sept 1st (yes. lknowthat's more than a week. but someone obviously doesn't). To ensure an optimum airing of Scottish talent. Streets Ahead invite any interested ‘exciting. new' bands (with original
material where possible) to submit demos and details as soon as possible to Streets Ahead Music. 1 Eglinton Crescent. Edinburgh. ER12 50R.
I FORMER FRIEND Again and. more recently, Sweet Deceittul Rather. Chris Thompson has finished recording an album on which he collaborates with former Commotions Neil Clarke and Stephen Irvine.
For reasons best known to
i the band, Phonogram gave the Money boys the yellow card and banished them from the mixing desk on grounds of “lack of hitsingle material'. Grant and co. stuck to their guns. however, and -withthe
offending tunes described by an insideras ‘not commercial but still the best thing they’ve ever done‘- Phonogram finally relented. ‘ihe album is due out before the end of the year.
themselves. the trio are operating under the title Bloomsday. and the LP. said to be ‘commercial but clever' is due for October release on Island records.
I STAYING WITH ex-Friends Again men. James Grant's Love And Money have been allowed. after some delay. to continue studio work on theirforthcoming Iong player. After hearing the first six tracks recorded by
l‘lie l.isl 37in!)
‘) August I‘NII27