When the Nottingham-based quartet Pinski Zoo played the Glasgow Jazz Festival a couple of years ago, I noted that they had been following a singular course for the best part of a decade. But despite much critical acclaim they have not yet made the breakthrough to bigger audiences and venues.
Little, it seems, has changed. Their last album, East Rail East, earned more than its share of plaudits, but the band will play the modest (but good) upstairs room in The Merlin, rather than anywhere more grand. It is the price they pay for a single-minded determination to play the music they want, regardless of fashion. They are defiantly loud and abrasive, and like to challenge their listeners rather than feed them the kind of processed mixture which spells big time. Searing improvisations over a slamming but complex funk beat have become their hallmark, while their obvious empathy is little short of astonishing.
Saxophonist Jan Kopinski and keyboard player Steve Iliffe are the heart of a long-running band, but each of the players has a distinctive contribution to make. Bassman Karl Wesley Bingham did leave at one time, but has been back in harness for seven years or so, while drummer Steve Harris, who has a marked liking for hardcore, joined over three years ago. Given their diverse backgrounds and inﬂuences, it is no surprise that Kopinski is reluctant to classify them as a jazz band.
‘Jazz is an area which is supposed to allow you freedom, but over the past few years it has been obvious that strait- jackets abound in jazz as much as anywhere else, and more so in some circles. The funk inﬂuence comes mainly from Karl, but Steve
Iliffe is only really into Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner, and his feel is more peculiar classical than jazz. 1 can’t figure out where he comes from sometimes. . .’ (Kenny Mathieson) Pinski Zoo play The Merlin, Edinburgh on Thurs 17.
He gambled on B j6rn Again! And won! He caught the mood of the moment with The Australian Doors Show! He’s got a tape from Johnny McRotten on his
desk! This is Robert Reed, ;
interviewed by Alastair Mabbott.
_ ‘Tribute,’ says Robert Reed again, and every time it’s pronounced you hear it with a capital ‘T’. ‘Tribute has allowed me to move up very quickly to a larger level.’
He’s not wrong there. Robert Reed’s trade is memories, and he showed us what a Pandora’s Box they can be when he brought Bjt'jrn Again from Tribute-mad Australia; thus driving a legion of old-enough- to-know-betters across the country into a frenzy of nostalgia for the days when ABBA walked the earth. Then he did the same thing all over again with The Australian Doors Show.
The ‘one-man industry‘ now plans to repeat the trick with Elton Jack, The Zep Boys and Hull’s The Royal Family, who cover Queen songs. The day we talk, he’s promoting a gig by Boney M. That’s the real Boney M (the legal holders to the title, though sadly not the line-up we remember); Reed explains this deviation towards the genuine article by pointing out that ‘Bjérn Again’s audience is Boney M’s audience.
‘ . Handy Hansen IS Jimi Hendrix The songs they did are very special. they’re imprinted on our brains. It‘s fantastic,’ he chuckles, ‘that we were so brainwashed in those days.‘
A Cambridge resident with an 02 twang in his voice that comes from. wait for it, ‘working with so many Australians’, Robert Reed gave up tour managing in 1988. when he decided that turning into a middle-aged, beer-bellied itinerant in a satin tour- jacket was perhaps not the most enticing career plan.
‘Then, out ofthe blue. I got involved with a group called The Sound OfThe Supremes, and was introduced to an Australian promoter who wanted to break this comedian over here called Col Elliott. That was sidelined by a phone call in October 1990 from Bjorn Again, saying, “We understand you have connections with Australia through Col Elliott. We’ve been trying to knock on doors in London for a long time." Suddenly, ABBA. Boney M - it chcked?
He defends himselfagainst the
charge that all this nostalgia is squeezing original new bands by claiming that Tribute is keeping venues open that might have perished in the recession. and points to the value the punters get for their money. ‘One of the best gigs was the SECC. when £6000 of damage was done — which I‘m getting feedback about now because of Hendrix.‘
When he says Hendrix, he means Hansen. Randy Hansen no longer blackens his skin, but he imitates the master’s bracing guitar style like no one since. Noel Redding, Hendrix’s original bassist in the Experience, has agreed to play with Hansen in Glasgow, a prospect which excites Reed no end. Now ABBA and Boney M were pretty big cheeses, but when you evoke the name ofJimi Hendrix. ﬂy his father Al over from the States. try to find some way to get Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to play on a stage together after more than twenty years. . . It must be so easy to get so swept up in it that you don’t know when to stop— until the bubble inevitably bursts. So will Robert Reed know when to pull his irons out of the fire?
‘Yeah. I think so. Because if you go further into some of the supergroups - The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac— I don‘t think they have the same charisma about them. How many other groups are there to clone? Ifyou go to the lesser ones, you’re appealing to the lesser audience.’
And when Tribute stops pulling the crowds? ‘Using the experience I’ve had in tour managing, promotion and Tribute acts to find that young act from wherever in the world they could be and putting my experience behind them.’
Randy Hansen pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix at King Tut's, Glasgow on Fri 1 8 and as part of the Scottish Music Show in the SE C C, Glasgow on Sat 19.
Appearing as part at the Glasgow Mela festivities this month is young, multi-award-winning Asian singing star Hajma Akhtar. The lirst Asian temale artist to play (and sell out) Ronnie Scott’s in London, she also supported Nina Simone at the Royal Festival Hall, and her semi-classical- lndian-jazz-lusion mix promises to open the ears at anyone whose knowledge at Indian music stops with restaurant muzak or George Harrison’s sitar.
The basis at Akhtar's sound is ghazal, an ancient lyric lorm dating back to 7th century Arabic poetry, into which she incorporates Western instruments and styles, particularly jazz. ‘There’s a lot at improvisation in ghazal,‘ she explains. ‘For instance, in Urdu you can say the word “moon” in maybe litteen or twenty dillerent ways; you can improvise around the words, like in jazz. So we draw upon jazz influences, using some Western ideas but at the same time keeping the basic
ingredients Indian—the vocals, tabla and lyrics.’
Coming lrom an orthodox Muslim background, Najma has had to overcome a considerable amount at opposition in order to develop her career. ‘It's very much like Victorian times, the stigma attached to musical and acting prolessions,‘ she says. ‘Pertorming at Ronnie Scott’s, tor
instance; in Indian lilms, nightclubs are where all the vices are - drinking, drugs, women ol easy virtue: my parents just freaked out. But in the end, they were persuaded, and now they’re both very proud of me.‘
With three albums under her bell- the mellow, melancholy ‘Gareeb’, the more upbeat, jazzier ‘Atish', and the lorthcoming, somewhere between the two, ‘Pukar' —Akhtar is still brimming with new ideas. ‘There are so many dillerent torms oi Indian music to learn about, but I’m also interested in other world music styles, and in Asian-Caribbean music, where people sing in Urdu or Hindi to a salsa or soca rhythm. So tor the next album there are so many dillerent possible directions I don’t know what to do, but I want it to be something which is new, something I’ve created.’ (Sue Wilson)
Hajma Akhtar plays the City Hall, Glasgow on Sun 13 Sept.
25 The List 11— 24 September 1992