The local jazz scene is now providing a decent platform for local ' musicians. but it is still a buzz to see musicians coming north to spice up the club venue programmes. Edinburgh audiences have two such visits. while Glasgow must content itself with one.
South African-born trumpet star Claude Deppa is a familiar ﬁgure on Scottish stages through his membership of Andy Sheppard’s bands. and his role with groups like The Jazz Warriors. Grand Union Orchestra, and big bands led by Carla Bley and George Russell.
Bass player Tony Thomas now provides an opportunity to hear his explosive trumpet playing at closer quarters. in a special event arranged to mark to the ﬁfth anniversary of Tony’s Beat Dis project, which began in Newcastle. and is both a club and a band.
Deppa will join fellow London-based players Dan Teper (piano) and Winston Clifford (drums) as Tony’s guests, alongside saxrnan Russell Cowieson. The Edinburgh gig at Cellar No l, where Tony runs the regularjazz nights. is free. a largesse made possible by the other resident musicians agreeing to waive their fees for that week. It should be a memorable night. with an appearance in lain Copeland’s Basement Jazz promotion to follow.
The Edinburgh Jazz Project also have an exciting prospect in the shape of the Blue N0te Quartet. a band fronted by American alto saxophonist Michael Hashim. a very highly regarded player in a broadly mainstream mode. and the great American drummer Clifford Jarvis. whose musical experience ranges from Chet Baker and Jackie McLean to Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra. (Kenny Mathieson)
The Blue Note Quartet play at the Tran Jazz Cellar, Edinburgh on Sun 6. Beat Dis play Cellar No I, Edinburgh on Wed 9, and The I 31/1 Nate, Glasgow on Fri ll.
34 The List 4—l7 November 1994
Penguins on parade
Kenny Mathieson considers the enigma of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra with its founder Simon Jeffes
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is nothing if not a phenomenon. First conceived in the early 70s by composer and musician Simon Jeffes, the group’s occasional records and even more occasional (although now increasingly frequent) live appearances built up a large and loyal following over the intervening decades, while critical reaction has ranged from vitriolic dismissal to slobbering adulation.
One consistent theme in what is written and said about the PCO is the notion that the band’s music is somehow an enigma. a mysterious and almost unintentional compound which eludes classiﬁcation, but seems to materialise almost organically, rather than being shaped and directed. Some of Jeffes’s own descriptions have tended to support that line of thought, but I put it to him that he must have a clearer conception of what their music is than some of his devotees would have us believe?
‘1 probably do, yes. The band came into existence because around 1972 I didn’t really have a context for the kind of work I did. I wasjust beginning to write music, and I participated in a lot of different areas, like the avant garde, experimental end of rock music, more commercial music, ethnic music — there was good things and not so good things in all ofthem, but I grew up not really ﬁtting into any of them.
‘The parts of each that I enjoyed
stayed with me, and my own personal repertoire of musical inﬂuences would include aspects of all those different kinds of music. Given a free hand. I would try to integrate all these different things into one work that would be my work, and that is where the idea for the Penguin Cafe came from.
‘It was an expression of a personal discovery for me at that time. and it does seem to have acted as a kind of umbrella for my work. and through that l have not had to force that work to ﬁt into any particular ﬁeld. l’ve grown up in a rather separated condition. but that is what happens these days in the kind of fragmented, uprooted culture we now have.’
The particular elements which go into PCO are strongly based in minimalist- derived repeating harmonic and rhythmic patterns, but the overlay is liable to come from almost anywhere in the musical (and indeed extra-musical) spectrum. One thing which Jeffes has stuck to, however, is his determination to use real acoustic instruments, and to keep volume under control.
‘l‘ve always found acoustic instruments appealing. l like what goes on in the instrument before it gets to the microphone, and the instruments we have now have been the product of a
long period of development which may
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
be over with the rise ofelectronics. l have the feeling that sound. unassisted by electricity. is what I want — to spread it around or play with it through electricity is then ﬁne. but the core has to come from our flesh and blood in contact with the instruments. That is in danger of becoming a rather romantic view. I suppose.
‘ln terms of how the music is put together. it happens at every point between the two extremes of complete preparation and complete improvisation. In a funny way. whatever I am writing will tend to incorporate itself around whoever is available. I have a hankering to write for double bass and harp at the moment. for example, but when it comes down to it. I suspect it will end up being for ukelele and trombone. because that‘s what’s there. It’s a real mixture of idealism and pragmatism.‘
More than most groups. reactions to PCO are a highly personal matter. and for everyone who ﬁnds their music enchanting and entertaining (as it often is) I suspect there is someone else who will find it inconsequential and lifeless (as it sometimes can be). The only answer. then. is to ﬁnd out for yourself. The Penguin Cafe ()rr'hestra play at the Festival Theatre in lirlinlntrgh on Sun 6.
mm- Occult heroes
Ask Glaswegian top pop quintet The Supematurals what their favourite music is and they’ll reply ‘a lot of 60s groups, a lot of 70s groups, a lot of 805 groups and a lot of 905 groups . . . and some from the 505 as well.’ Well, at least we know where they’re coming from.
The Supematurals began life in earnest just over a year ago, when they decided that gigging to death is the best way for a band to come of age. Which, when you play accessible melodic pop with plenty of character, it most certainly is. Over a hundred gigs later (including one every night of the first Sound City week), the band find themselves a hugely entertaining draw on the pub and club circuit with a healthy following in their home city who will eagerly snap up the two tapes, ‘Big Seven’ and ‘Oark Star’ which they’ve produced so far.
Apart from 24-carat tunes, another traditional rock ’n’ roll notion the group have appropriated is the
wearing of stage costumes. Spurred by a love of Slade, band members don gaudy finery (thrift shop suits, kipper ties, patterned shirts) for every performance. Mercifully, facial glitter is not a part of the act.
‘It looks good and it sets you apart from the audience,’ says bassist Mark Guthrie. ‘It’s not like that grunge thing where you look like the audience. It gets a reaction as well. It’s our ambition to walk around Glasgow and get our heads kicked in.’
Violent street encounters permitting, The Supematurals move onwards and upwards with the release of a seven- track GO, ‘Sitting In The Sun’, distributed to record shops throughout
The Supematurals Scotland before the archetypal ‘problems with the artwork’ were detected. The track listing on the sleeve is composed using a mixture of children’s magnetic letters and Scrabble letters.
‘On the title track the white Scrabble letters spell out the word “tits”,’ rues guitarist Derek McManus. ‘This was drawn to our attention by a ten-year- old and now we can’t overlook the fact that it says “tits”.’ And you know what? They’re not wrong. (Fiona Shepherd)
Sitting In The Sun is available now from most good Scottish record shops. The Supematurals play Speaker’s Corner, Glasgow, on Thurs 10.