Followers of what’s happening on the contemporary music front are spoiled for choice this fortnight. Not only new music, but a new group can be heard in Edinburgh when The New Thirteen makes its debut performance in the sculpture court of Edinburgh College of Art. As the name suggests, they are a group of thirteen instrumentalists, all Edinburgh-based. and hope to become an innovative and dynamic force in the city’s musical life. The group is dedicated to the aim of playing interesting music in interesting surroundings, and their first concert will be conducted by Icelandic cellist and composer. Haﬂidi Hallgrimsson. whose Memoriale opens the programme.
A smaller ensemble opening its season is the Hebrides. In a deft piece of planning. they will be playing Edward Harper’s In Memoriam Kenneth Leighton with Leighton’s Fantasy on an American Hymn Tune. Moving onto orchestral music, the BBC SSO continue their Premiere Series with a concert in Glasgow (not Edinburgh as originally planned) on Friday 24 which features the premiere of Naresh Sohal’s Violin Concerto. Commissioned by the BBC in 1986 it has had to wait until now for its first hearing and will no doubt bear some of the characteristic hallmarks of Sohal, the first Indian composer writing in a Western style to gain international recognition.
Unlike the BBC $50. the Royal Scottish Orchestra has often been criticised for the paucity of 2()th Century Scottish music in its programmes. But this fortnight they give the Scottish premiere of Martin Dalby‘s The Mary Bean. Could it be that times are changing? (Carol Main)
The New Thirteen play Edinburgh College of A rt on Sat 31 ; The Hebrides Ensemble play the
RSA MD, Glasgow on Sun 25 and the Queen '3 Hall, Edinburgh on Mon 26.- the BBC SSO play Broadcasting House. Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow on Sat 24; the R50 play the Usher Hall. Edinburgh on Fri30 and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sat 31. g..—
‘x a; ’ l r
: celebrated the star of
Heathers and Edward Scissorhands with their single ‘Winona’. But what did Della wear? Alastair
Mabbott asks singer Greg Ackell.
The appearance of Delaware, the debut album by Boston’s Drop Nineteens, was praised widely by British critics and whetted punters’ appetites for the inevitable live shows. Delaware and the single ‘Winona’ on the semi-indie Hut label evoked the best of prevailing British and American indie music. Melody Maker’s Everett True called it the first decent album to have emerged in the ‘Scene’ (meaning shoegazing) style, and relished the irony that it took an American band to do it. Drop Nineteens’ enthusiastic and talkative frontman Greg Ackell must have been perplexed, as his tastes are somewhat different from the bands cited in that review.
‘In high school, I listened to stuff like The Cure and Echo And The Bunnymen, typical stuff that came over at the time. These bands were really inﬂuential at an early stage, and I think that music is still good. I just think that a lot of what’s happening in England now is kind of boring. I’m calling, where,
Scotland? Isn’t Teenage Fanclub from Scotland? They are great! And they’re one of the few English bands right now that are worth listening to. Lately, I haven’t heard much from England that’s been interesting, but there’s not much going on in America either.
‘The stuffl listen to,’ he threatens, ‘would probably scare you. I listen to stuff like Van Halen. It seems a lot more honest to me than things like The Smiths or New Order.’
No Slowdive or Chapterhouse comparisons, then, thanks, but at least Drop Nineteens can count those bands as contemporaries if not influences. Remarkably, the group still, ‘in theory at least’, all attend Boston University, having taken full advantage of the lenient American education system.
‘I’m an English major,’ says Ackell. ‘Paula’s into film, Steve is into writing, Chris is into engineering and Moto’s into video production. We’re all trying to stay in school, in theory at least. Obviously, from September to December, we’re touring our lives away, so we couldn’t be in school now, but when we’re back in America in January, we’ll probably take some classes and stuff while we record our second album .
‘In England, from what I’m told, bands are much younger. You can be eighteen and start a band and all of a sudden you’re doing a single for Creation or some label. In America,
it just doesn’t happen. It’s sort of unheard-of for us to be so young and travelling around and stuff. I think a lot of places we go to, they like that. They like the fact that they can hang out with us.’
Drop Nineteens, who started out ‘trying to get ambience incarnated’ have ‘just gotten about as far from that as we can’ and fallen back to earth on their new EP with a band version of ‘My Aquarium’, the acoustic duet from Delaware. The Pixies-like track is a marked contrast to the ten minutes of hotheaded experimentation which was Delaware’s ‘Kick The Tragedy’, and Ackell doubts that the band will zoom so far into the ether in future.
‘It’s probably our least favourite
'song. We never play it live. It was an idea that worked, and it’s on the album and — fine. But we’ve moved on from that. I mean, I can appreciate it. I can listen to it, I guess. It’s hard to say how I see ourselves going, because I don’t really know what the reception is like out there. I would say we’ve gotten a little more basic on this last EP, and I think it’s more about attitude on this EP than anything else. It was a lot of fun to record. We’re trying to capture that drinking beer/beach kind of feeling. I don’t know if that’s more mainstream or less.’
Drop Nineteens play The Venue, Edinburgh on Sun 1 and King Tut’s, Glasgow on Mon 2.
Saxophonist Tommy Smith’s jazz career seemed to have entered a static phase last yearwhile he concentrated on otherthings, principally in the tield of classical music, but the debut ot his Sextet in Edinburgh in May blew away
g that perception in highly convincing fashion. Both the band and the music
g Tommy wrote tor it were part of a
commission from Assemny Direct and
the Scottish Arts Council, and they are about to tour torthe tlrst time, to promote the new Blue Note album at that music, ‘Paris’.
The band and recording shows one change, with Julian Arguelles replacing Steve Williamson on alto saxophone in the regular line-up. The dozen pieces which Smith wrote lor the Sextet range from delicate piano duos on ‘Tear' (with trumpeter Guy Barker), ‘Lost' (Arguelles), and ‘Betlections' (Smith himself, in a lovely Ben Webster-ish mode), through to the lrenetlc ensemble polyphony ol ‘ldeology’.
The programme is well-balanced,
allowing plenty ot scope tor improvisation, while the intricate counterpoint, subtle textures and striking inner detail at the ensemble writing bring together Smith’s classical composition with both the American ’ and European tacets at his jazz playing, and makes a successtul and absorbing synthesis at them, with the emphasis linnly on jan.
The band is well-chosen, with the two saxophonists joined by the excellent Guy Barker on trumpet, Jason Bebello on piano, Mick Hutton on bass, and Jeremy Stacey on drums. The music occasionally recalls some at the more adventurous bands ot the early 60s * (distant echoes ol Eric Dolphy or Oliver Nelson, a distinct relerence to Miles Davis’s ‘So What’ in ‘Phraseology'), but comes over, on stage and on record, sounding both trash and original. (Kenny Mathieson)
‘Paris' was released on 12 October. See Jazz Listings (Thur 29 — Fri 30) tor tour details.