Travels north

Kenny Mathieson talks to saxophonist Julian Arguelles about his Scottish connections

One of the most intriguing concerts in the TDK Round Midnight bill features leading young Scottish musicians in never-before-heard combinations. Saxophonist Tommy Smith and pianist Chick Lyall will get together in a duo for the first time ever, while guitarist Kevin Mackenzie will team up in a new quartet with the London-based saxophonist Julian Arguelles, and a rhythm section of Mick Hutton on bass and Tom Bancroft on drums.

Arguelles has emerged as one of the most consistently exciting and absorbing of the players to come out of the new British jazz surge of the 805. He and his brother, drummer Steve Arguelles, moved from their native Birmingham to London in 1984, and came to wider notice as key members of the Loose Tubes big band. The new collaboration with Kevin MacKenzie came about in somewhat unlikely fashion, however.

‘This concert will be the first time we play together in public, other than a couple of odd jam sessions in Glasgow and London, but I knew his playing from the John Rae Collective. We bumped into each other in New York completely by accident, and we started hanging out and talking about music, and it

developed from that. I work with Tom Bancroft and with Mick Hutton, so that is no problem. We’ll be doing originals by Kevin and myself, and possibly also by Tom. and maybe a couple of tunes by other people.‘

The Scottish connection doesn’t end there, however, since Julian is now the second saxophonist in Tommy Smith‘s superb new Sextet, which had its debut at The Queen‘s Hall in May. Julian replaced Steve Williamson from the original line-up when things didn‘t work out as hoped, and is featured on the forthcoming Blue Note recording of the music Tommy wrote for the band (the fruits of a commission from Assembly Direct), which will be called Paris, since most of it was written there.

‘Tommy called me on the day of the recording and asked me to replace Steve. I came down with my

Julian Arguelles

alto, and we spent a couple of hours running through the hard parts, then started to record the easier ones, not that any of it is easy. In some ways it was the most pressurised I have been, because the standard of playing was so good, and Tommy has such a sharp ear for intonation, and knows exactly what he wants, but it‘s great to be involved.’

Arguelles still leads his own band, with pianist John Taylor, Mick Hutton, and drummer Martin France, and is a member of brother Steve’s band. This concert with Kevin is likely to be start of an on-going collaboration, and Julian will be back north ofthe border in the autumn for dates with Tommy Smith. It looks as though the Scottish connection still has a way to go.

I Debut! (Fringe/TDK Round Midnight) Queen‘s Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019, 31 Aug, 10.30pm, £6—£8.50.

am- New roads

Like many jazz players these days, saxophonist Bob Berg is an adaptable musician, able to switch with apparent ease from straight-ahead jazz to high-power fusion and back again. His successful partnership with guitarist Mike Stern has made the group they co-lead one oi the small band of fusion outfits worth crossing the road to hear, but they appear with equal regularity on each other’s solo discs as well.

Berg came through the ranks as a straight-ahead player, cutting his teeth in bands led by the likes of pianists llorace Silver and Cedar Walton, where his big, robust sound and improvisational facility caught the ears of Miles Davis, and Berg shifted tracks into the fusion field. He met up with Stem in his tenure with Miles (from

Bob Berg

1984-87), but by the end of that stay, he was feeling the pressure to do something different.

‘lt seemed like Miles was striving to have a pop band, in a certain way, and while I was willing to try anything within reason, it eventually started to

feel a little like a lounge act to me. Alterl left Miles, Ifelt a real load came off me, and I think I really came into my own at that point. Playing with him really helped to push me into what l’m doing now.’

Berg feels that his most recent record, “Back Boads’ (Denon), is a departure from his previous music, but is a little bit closer to his heart than anything he has done before. inevitably, Mike Stern guests on guitar, but forfhe two Round Midnight concerts, they will revert to the familiar Bob Berg/Mike Stern Band, with bassman Lincoln Goines and new drummer Ben Perowsky, who has the unenviable job of filling the shoes of the mighty Dennis Chambers. (Kenny Mathieson)

Bob Berg/Mike Stern Band (Fringe/Tait Round Midnight), Queen's Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019, 31 Aug—1 Sept, 7.30pm, £8.50—£12.50.


Nana Vasconcelos

Nana Vasconcelos has a

habit of popping up all

over the place, from Jan

- Garbarck and Egberto . Gismonti through to BB.

-‘ King and Talking Heads.

Whatever the setting, though. the Brazilian

i percussionist always

remains instantly recognisable and wholly


Unlike many percussion players. Vasconcelos

; refuses to rely on simply

exploiting his instruments for their spectacle, but

I prefers instead to explore a more daringly

undemonstrative musical \ world, especially in the

context of his own music.

. That is not to say that he is incapable of being as

explosively brilliant as any when the music requires it, but he is equally at ease

with a gentle rustle.

evoking his native Brazilian rainforest. Vasconcelos uses not

' only his wide range of

percussion instruments,

mainly drawn from Brazil (most famously for the

berimbau. a single string

bow with resonating

' gourd). but a highly

flexibly employed drum machine, his voice

(augmented by a little electronic echo), and even

, his body, which itself

becomes a kind ofdrum. In his solo show Heartbeat. he combines that entire range of percussive textures and rhythms with theatrical movement to create a multi-layered, integrated performance exploring the music and landscape ofBrazil. (Kenny Mathieson) I Nana Vasconcelos (Fringe/TDK Round Midnight). Queen‘s Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019.4 Sept. 7.30pm, £7.50—£10.

The List 28 August - 10 September 1992 47