Chick Lyall will be a familiar name to regular readers of this section, but the Glaswegian pianist has had to wait patiently for the short Scottish tour which he is undertaking for the Scottish Jazz Network (see listings). He has not allowed the frustration of widely scattered single gigs to get him down, but a three-night engagement in Dunkirk with his quartet last summer underlined the value of continuity, and emphasised the problems of pursuing innovative music on the limited scene up here.
‘l'm not really optimistic that i can do what I want to do here, to be honest,’ Lyall admits. ‘There just aren’t enough good gigs to go round. I’m not really interested in the pub circuit— I would rather play half a dozen good concerts a yearthan 60 or 7D pub ones — and I’d love to get the chance to play abroad much more often, because i think my music would go down well in Europe.
‘I would like to avoid having to move to London if I possibly could, though. i feel Scotland is an advantage in a creative sense, but there may not be enough work to sustain that. Because i am not gigging all the time, though, it means that I am getting more time to think about the way in which I want to develop my music, and that is valuable in itself.’
The SJN tour will feature two different
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facets of Lyall’s music, in duo with Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunborg, and with his Quartet. Sadly, there is no Edinburgh gig on the schedule; a proposal to incorporate it within an Assembly Direct season at the Queen’s Hall fell through when Roger Spence decided not to run a winter programme (see last issue), and no alternative venue with a suitable piano could be found in time.
The duo with Tore Brunborg, as featured on their album The Tilting Ground issued by Watercourse last year, but still awaiting a CD version, which Chick sees as ‘the natural medium for this music’, arose out a suggestion from Rob Adams, now a journalist, but then working with Roger Spence at the now-defunct Platform Jazz. Adams had tour-managed for Tore’s band Masqualero on several occasions - he once even took two weeks’ holiday to do so - and had grown to know them well.
‘liob suggested to Roger Spence that the combination would be a good one, and he was right,’ says Lyall. ‘I had never met Tore, although I had heard him play with Masqualero. lwas already working in the studio on the electronic tapes which we used as a backing for our improvisations at that point, and it seemed like a good idea to incorporate Tore into that. llelt his
sound would complement the percussive textures that i wanted to use. He has that lovely, singing sound which Jan Garbarek has, and i knew in my mind’s ear that it would work.
‘Roger Spence then suggested the Glasgow Jazz Festival project with Tore, Arlld Andersen and Jon Christensen, which seemed a natural evolution. Tore and i had discussed the possibility oi working with a rhythm section, and we all enjoyed it very much. This time, though, we will go back to a combination of the original conceptwith tapes. which will all be new and a bit less dense this time, and a straight acoustic duo. The music from the album is two years old now, and I am looking forward to presenting fresh material.
‘As time goes by, lieel less and less comfortable with doing gigs using just the electronic backing tapes. It was a good experiment, and l was pleased with the results, but i have found it a little iniiexlble compared to a good rhythm section, and i think it may even have had a slightly dampening effect on my own playing. I suspect they might work better on record, where I am working with almost sculpted layers oi sound, than in a live periormance.’
The Chick Lyall Quartet are a very different prospect. The hand first played togther a year ago, when Chick got together with George Lyle on bass, and the Bancroft twins, Phil on saxophone and Tom on drums. The group is able to draw on the compositional resources of the twins, both writers and leaders in their own right, as well as Chick, giving them a wide and varied spectrum oi material with which to work.
‘lt’s been quite difficult to get gigs, but there has been a great will on everyone's part to make it happen. A lot of work has gone into it, and although it is still in the early stages, I feel already that we are working together better as a group. There are so many ideas being generated in the music, and that is always exciting. We work from the jazz tradition to some extent, but with a greater emphasis on the freer side of the music- exploration is still the point of departure for us, and i don’t hear that from too many British bands.
’Although I don’t like to make too much distinction between European and American jazz, I would say that this group leans more toward the American side, and to mutual influences like Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis’s quintets from the 1960s, Keith Jarrett’s quartets with Garbarek and Dewey Redman, especially that combination of almost folk-like melodies with open-ended improvisation, and people like David Murray and Steve Coleman. They are all musicians who stand a little outside of the mainstream, but who are taking the music forward, and that is what interests me.’
Chick Lyall plays the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow on Thurs 7.
! v CLASSICAL I THECANDLEDF - CDURAGE
Beethoven’s only opera. Fidelio confronts some immense universal concepts such as personal freedom and the triumph of good over evil. and when it was first performed in 1805 it was heralded as a major new development in German dramatic opera. lts storyline is based around unjust political imprisonment and conjugal devotion, and was taken from a true incident during the French Revolution.
It must have been extremely tempting to set his new Fidelio in some late 20th century situation. but American director Stephen Wadsworth has chosen to set it in the period it was written. ‘You can set an opera in any time or place.‘ he says. ‘but I think the responsibility is really to do with relationships.‘
Clarity is vital to the opera. he says, so this Fidelio. set in a ruined French chateau. is visually very simple and clear — not dark. sombre or abstract. ‘1 don't think of the work I do being concept work. but just being about people — I want to clarify the emotional transactions in the opera.‘ he says - surging well for the highly emotional Prisoners‘ Chorus, () welche Lust.
To be sung in German with English surtiIICs. Fr'deli'o‘s impressive international cast is headed by Austrian soprano Gudrun Volkert as Leonara. Significantly. her main roles to date have been Wagnerian: last year alone. she sang Briinhildc in the Warsaw Ring and at the Met, New
York. plus ()rtrud , (Lohengrin) in Venice. I She is joined by fellow German native speaker Adelbert Waller ' as the jailer Rocco and by . American tenor Richard l Brunner as her imprisoned husband Florcstan. Scots conductor Roderick Brydon returns to the company. and this new j Fidelio will be the first new production for the Scottish Opera orchestra's new leader, Helensburgh- born John Doig. (Cate Devine)
32 The List 25 January - 7 Februarv 1991