Saxophonist John Burgess emerged with the current set of movers and shakers on the Scottish jazz scene, but has received less attention here than the likes ofthe Bancroft twins, largely because he chose to tackle the London scene early on. He made a very favourable impression there, both as a player and for his energetic efforts to create gigs. Back in his home town, Burgess has a Wednesday residence at Noble‘s Bar in Leith, and will host the Blue Note modern jazz club during the Edinburgh Jazz Festival next month, but he finds the prevailing lethargy depressing.
‘lt couldn‘t be much worse. to be honest, and I think it has to be the musicians who do something about it. In London, people are ready to work for what comes in at the door. even ifit means paying to play, but that doesn‘t happen here. For the music I am interested in, there is no option — you have to play as much as possible or it will never go anywhere.‘
Pinning down that interest is more difficult. Burgess has many of the mainstream virtues in his tenor playing, but seems equally happy in a post-Coltrane vein, or free
improvisation. He displays several facets of that stylistic spread in his first tape, the self-produced ‘Wishful Thinking‘. which includes Ornette Coleman‘s ‘Blues Connotation‘ and the Evans-Davis classic ‘Blue in Green’ alongside five originals.
‘I am interested in a lot ofdifferent things and I feel comfortable as long as I know roughly what is happening — what I hate is the kind of free playing in which nobody knows what
they are doing. The mainstream thing probably comes from my mum’s tastes— I think the first jazz I heard was the Alex Welsh Band, and I like basically straight-ahead players like Ben Webster or Stanley Turrentine. I don‘t think I actually get to play enough of any one thing to settle on it yet, which is maybe why I like to move around in that way.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
Brick up the jams
Gyroscope-swallowers, unite and sway to the heady rhythm rock of Edinburgh’s kings of mosh, Ounderfunk! The eagerly-awaited ‘Brlck Oat' EP has arrived, on Earwltness Records, and it’s a convincing testament to the flourishing talents of Scotland’s most radical rock band.
Once an undisciplined crypto-shambles oi a turn, Ounderfunk have capitalised on hard work and a new guitarist, blossoming into a coherent entity. Vocalist Keith Taylor explains the transformation.
‘We used to all concentrate on our own lines, but since Habby (guitarist) joined last year, things have come together. He was only listening to Megadeth and Ozzy Osbourne then, but when we started the Frottage Club at Edinburgh Venue, all the music came from our own record collections and that made us more aware of the range of tastes in the band. Habby’s getting into dance tracks now.’
The 5? illustrates this fusion of styles and confirms the onset of maturity. The newest tracks, ‘Phoney Walker’, ‘Flshnet’ and ‘lnstablllty' ooze with self-assurance, in contrast to the cries for attention of ‘Trying To Be Cool' and “Fun To Be Vllth', which are a little older.
The upshot of this metamorphosis from hungry larva to resplendent firefly is the passing of Dunderfunk's much vaunted sense of humour.
‘Vle’re not as funny as we used to be - It’s oilictal,’ jokes Keith, giving due respect to ‘Vlz’.
The cheaper laughs have now succumbed to a more melancholic or
sardonic wit, like the difference between ‘Vlc Reeves Big lllght Out' and ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest’.
‘lt's much easier to write a twisted song than a happy one,‘ Keith explains, admitting that ‘lnstablllty' is pure catharsis.
A programme of live Frottage coincides with the EP release and two more Oundertunk tracks will be available soon on the “Gathering Of The Clans’ CO through Oatscratch Records.
Witness the official birth of a future legend. (Richard Reggie)
Ounderiunk play The Venue, Edinburgh on Sun 19.
In the autumn. Edinburgh‘s Assembly Rooms will start hosting regular ceilidh dances. the building again echoing to the Strathspeys. reels and quadrilles of its golden era. But not since the 19th-century heyday of fiddle geniuses Neil and Nathaniel Gow has the sound of the bass fiddle, or cello, been heard as an integral part of Scottish dance music. Now Alasdair Fraser. superb player. teacher and proselytiser of the Scottish fiddle aims to redress these centuries of omission in a concert featuring cellist Ron Shaw.
Fraser admits, ‘l‘d been looking for something for a very longtime, something that would look after the bass end and be very rhythmical. but also be percussive. And it‘s gradually become apparent to me that the perfect instrument for it is the cello. It‘s so versatile. That‘s why it was commonly used then. It can do all these things but it can also loup up and play the tune if it has to, or a second fiddle part or whatever, but it's so hard to ﬁnd a player who can do that.
‘I first heard Ron in the
- Cauld Blast Orchestra and
I thought immediately that any cello player that gets involved in an ensemble like that has to be thinking in a freer way than any other cellist I‘ve
known of. and I've since
g discovered in Ron a player ' who‘sdeeplyinvolved
with Scottish music but also a cellist who is interested in more than the instrument‘s beautiful sonority, although he can play like that. Ron has the technique to make it talk. but he‘s not afraid to underuse his technique and play for rhythmic effect. He‘s gone beyond his training.
‘Classical music education does not teach you to be rhythmically on. to groove, to play for dance, all these things that cellos are really good at.‘ (Norman Chalmers) Alasdair F raser, Ron Shaw and Muriel Johnstone (piano) play Henry Wood Hall. Glasgow on Thurs 23 and Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on Fri 24.
The List 17-30July 1992 27