PREVIEW GLASGOW JAZZ FESTIVAL
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Atro-Brazilian Connection Don Pullen is one of the great pianists of the modern era. but his insistence on pursuing a constantly experimental route has militated against establishing a wide. mainstream audience for his work. Equally at home on piano and organ. he has been likened - inaccurately — to Cecil Taylor for his use of dissonance and unconventional ﬁngering. including the famous rapid glissandi which he plays with incredible control using his knuckles.
Pullen played with Charles Mingus for three years. and met up with the saxophonist George Adams and drummer Dannie Richmond (both. sadly. now dead) in that band. They went on to form a quartet—quintet which ran for a decade. but by the late 80s Pullen grew to feel. ‘that we had only reached a certain level. and it seemed like we really weren't going anyplace'. and decided to strike out on his own.
Blue Note were recording the band at that point. and readily agreed to Pullen‘s trio project New Beginnings in l989. which he saw as. ‘a new start for me — i can hear myself playing differently. and there is a whole new horizon there that I didn‘t see hefore‘. Cut with a studio-only band of Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. it was followed by a second trio session. Random Thoughts (1990). and then by the project which the pianist will bring to Glasgow. his Afro-Brazilian Connection quintet.
The pianist has long been interested in this kind of intermixing of musical elements. as has saxman Carlos Ward. already familiar to Scottish audiences for his work with Abdullah Ibrahim and Don Cherry. incredibly. according to Blue Note. their Kele Mou Bana disc. a potent mixture of Latin rhythms. African percussion. and American jazz released only last year. has already been deleted. but a new one. Ode to Life. is due for imminent release. You can hear the real thing here. though. when Pullen and Ward are joined by bass player Nilson Matta and percussionists Mor Thiam and J. T. Lewis. (Kenny Mathieson)
Don Pullen 's Afro-Brazilian Connection play at the Fruitmarke! on Sat 3 at [0pm.
‘We didn’t mean to stop for so long,’ says Bandy Brecker of dance floor friendly jazz-funkers, The Brecker Brothers Band. The band formed almost as an antidote to trumpeter Randy and saxophonist Michael’s success as flew York session musicians in the 70s. With 2000-plus album credits between them, they were in serious demand, and turned up with everyone, from Bruce Springsteen to James Brown.
‘Those were crazy times and long days, with umpteen sessions a days,’ Bandy recalls. ‘Studio work, however, is very much finesse-based, concerned with playing the right notes, so we would go along and play those notes and save our real creativity for our own stuff.’
After six albums and much success, including the 1978 disco fave ‘East River’ - a superior piece of industrial- strength rifting a la The Average White Band’s ‘Plck Up the Pieces’ - a ‘brief hiatus’ during 1982 took Bandy into Jaco Pastorius’s Word Of Mouth band, and Michael into the highly-regarded Steps Ahead, as well as their own acoustic jazz projects. Five years passed before they managed a one-gig reunion; five more (thanks mainly to Michael’s workload with Paul Simon) before a suitable space in their diaries appeared.
Although nominally the leaders, the brothers share writing and soloing
Bandy Brecker duties equally around the band, which currently features George Whitty (keyboard player and producer for Chaka Khan), former Billy Cobham guitarist Dean Brown, bassist James Genus, and one-time Return To Forever drummer lenny White.
‘Before the break, Michael and I had worked together almost constantly for more than ten years, so we knew each other’s playing very well. But we find that now we can still surprise each other, both in the playing sense and compositionally. Our first premise is, everyone enjoys themselves; the second, we don’t get stale. The set changes every night, but there’s so much room for improvisation that even it you heard the same set of tunes twice, they would sound completely different.’ (Bob Adams)
The Brecker Brothers Band play at the Fruitmarket on Wed 7 at 7pm.
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The Art Ensemble of Chicago The Art Ensemble Of Chicago have gone through a lot of musical changes since they first emerged out of the ferment of the experimental Chicago scene of the late 60s, with a blend of avant-garde jazz and back-to-Africa aural and visual weirdness which is summed up on evocatively-titied albums like the classic ‘Fanfare For The Warriors’ or ‘llrban Bushmen’.
in the the 80s, however, the band was no longer the principal artistic focus for its participants. lester Bowie formed his Brass Ensemble, saxophonist Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell were off doing a variety of projects, and bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and Famadou lion Moye were much in demand. Nonetheless, the AEC always remained a going concern, and continued to tour and make records.
It the radical edges had smoothed out somewhat by the 90s, they
remained as committed to experiment as before, joining forces with an African drum band on the rather unintegrated ‘America/South Africa’ and ‘Art Ensemble of Soweto’ discs, and with pianist Cecil Taylor on the second volume of their ‘Dreaming of the Masters’ series, devoted to Thelonious Monk (the first paid homage, in typically oblique fashion, to John Coltrane).
It would be unfair to accuse them of plundering the jazz heritage, since their music has always been acutely conscious of many layers of that heritage, and a lot more besides. They have stood, however, for advancement rather than revivalism, for exploration as against replication, and Bowie in particular has been an acerbic critic of the current scene.
The project which they bring to Glasgow is a continuation of that process, uniting the band with the Chicago Blues Tradition, as represented by Chicago Beau on blues harp and vocals, Herb Walker on guitar and vocals, and jazzers Amina Claudine Myers on piano, the great Frank Lacy on trombone, and James Carter on saxophone. If there is a more vibrant, colourful musical summit in the festival, I hope I’ll be there as well; i certainly won’t miss this one. (Kenny Mathieson)
The Art Ensemble of Chicago meets The Chicago Blues Tradition at the Fruitmarket on Fri 9 at 7pm.
Joanna MaeCregor Joanna MacGregor has been a frequent visitor to Scotland over the past eighteen months. but the concert stages she has occupied have seen her play Prokofiev with the New World Symphony or Ravel and Messiaen with the RSNO. She is not. then. an immediately obvious name to find in a jazz festival programme. but anyone who has followed the career of this high-flying classical pianist will know that she has lain down several markers indicating her interest in the field.
Her The Music Of George Gershwin disc includes instrumental versions of the popular songs as well as the jazz- inflected orchestral works. and she recorded transcriptions of Errol Garner and Thelonious Monk on her American Piano C lassii's recording. which she features in recitals alongside Django Bates‘s quirky. colourful arrangements of standard tunes.
it is typical of her broad-minded approach to her art that she is willing to tackle this kind of repertoire alongside classical material ranging from Scarlatti Sonatas to Messiaen's 'liirangalila .S'ymphonv and many
contemporary works. She is
quick to admit. though. that she does not consider herself to be ajazz player in any real sense.
‘When I was growing up. l had a normal teenager‘s interest in pop music. and also liked the jazz records my parents had around the house. and l leamed a lot of the great standards when I played for a tap dance school as a teenager. I am very interested in musicians who improvise. but I can't really do it. The Garner and Monk pieces are my own transcriptions. and 1 treated them as composers. rather than as something I would play around with and improvise on myself. I love playing them. though. and the same goes for Django's wonderful arrangements.‘ (Joe Alexander)
Joanna Mai‘Gregor and Django Bates 3‘ Human
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Fruitmar/ret on Sat /0 at 7pm.
The List 2--l5 July l99317