While, as Jonathan Hichman put it, ‘They got a lotta, Iotta, lotta great desks and chairs - uh-huh - at the Government Centre,’ in the case of Glasgow City Council, it seems that they also have cool in spades, the latest recipients of which are Some Velvet Sidewalk’s Al Larsen and family. Larsen and his wife, artist and designer Stella Marr, and their two- year-old daughter Cypress, are spending three months in the city as
. part of a cultural exchange between
Glasgow and their home town Olympia, USA.
Brought into contact by Olympia’s quasi-legendary label K Records,
? Larsen and long-time mutual admirers
Scotland‘s Kevin MacKenzie: breaking new ground with Cyber Jazz
the guitar with the kind of gang-ho enthusiasm whichjazzers had never quite mustered, and it was inevitable that subsequent generations of both musicians and listeners would view the instrument in a very different light.
Surveying the current Scottish jazz. scene. that rock influence remains an entirely overt one on all of the younger players who are now prominent on guitar. In one of those serendipitous coincidences. the two front-runners can be heard in the span of this issue. alongside a rather more experienced name, but even that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms ofjazz. guitar activity.
Martin Taylor frequently points out that the jazz guitarist has something of an in-built advantage. in that ‘the guitar fanatics are everywhere'. and genre is often a secondary consideration. Taylor. still the most successful of the Scottish- based players. admits to being ‘a guitarist who happens to be most interested in jazz' rather than the other way around. and the instrument undoubtedly exerts its own elemental appeal.
The stylistic range covered by jazz. guitar continues to expand. a fact illustrated on a micro-level by the three players performing in the course of this issue. Kevin MacKenzie. Nigel Clark and Jim Mullen all have very different and highly distinctive approaches to their instruments and their music. but
; within their playing, and then re- translated that influence back into a
jazz vocabulary. It will be rrrost obvious in
MacKenzie's futuristic Cyber Jazz. outfit and Clark‘s highly imaginative
and remarkably uncliched fusion quintet. while Mullen‘s lyricism and harmonic originality is likely to be heard in a more conventional jazz- standards context — but all three are indicative of the current strength of the instrument.
And there are more where they came from — keep an eye. for example. on John Goldie. currently a member of Martin 'l‘aylor‘s Spirit of Django and a highly promising player in his own right. If the saxophone remains the
primary visual icon in jazz. the guitarist
has long since ceased to be the poor relation on the ensemble front-line. Instead. the instrurrrent has corrre into its own. not simply as a carrier of the jazz tradition, but as a rrrajor innovative force within the music. That is true on a local level, where MacKenzie and Clark are both breaking new ground, as much as on an international scale. where the likes ofJohn Scoﬁeld and Pat Metheny have won new audiences for the music, while others. like Bill
Frisell and the late Sonny Sharrock. have taken it off in unexpected
See Jazz Lisringsfnr daresfur K min i Mui‘Kenzie's Cyber Jazz. The Nigel
all three have absorbed at rock influence i Clark Quintet and Jim Mullen.
The Pastels have been planning a collaboration for several years now, with only a few thousand miles and the lack of funds preventing it. In steps GCC, however, and with a quick wave of the artists and musicians exchange scheme, it’s ruby slippers all round chez Larsen.
The two projected collaborative records - one for UK release, the other for America — are the only tangible results of the exchange. ‘l’ve been in an odd situation with my music and my life,’ Larsen says, ‘because right before Cypress was born, Some Velvet Sidewalk toured and I knew that, logically, to make the band work, we should go out again in a couple of
months, but that wasn’t possible - I knew I had to concentrate on Cypress. So, for the past two years, the band hasn’t been out of the North-West of America. We’ve written songs, but not a lot. So I was at the stage where I wanted to focus on the music and develop. To come over here and not have to worry about the rent and get the chance to play and develop ideas — it’s just great.’
In the meantime, discussions ’twixt Olympia and Glasgow continue in camera as to who will be Glasgow’s representative for the return half of the exchange. The smoke’s still black thus far, but the word is that it needn’t necessarily be a musician. Hey! It could be you! (Damien Love)
AI Larsen supports The Pastels at King Tut’s, Glasgow on Fri 16.
mill-' Festive folk
' tiliérr'k‘ "
in Le ‘ ' ~. ‘3 s \
I A couple of new folk festivals are
scheduled to offer respite from either the madness of approaching Christmas or the sudden dip in the thermometer. Glasgow’s larger Theakston-sponsored event will be detailed in the next issue, but Edinburgh’s Tron Tavern
3 presents three days of concerts,
classes, sessions and more sessions,
using the full three floors of bars, over the first December weekend.
The Friday evening East of Scotland concert features the full voices of Palaver, an all-women group 'of a cappella singers who move from traditional song to contemporary
satire with ease. They share the concert with Dundee piano player Michael Marra, one of the greatest songwriters to have emerged from this country in decades. A unique musical and lyrical talent, he could be a Scottish Handy flewman.
The art of solo unaccompanied singing is central to Celtic culture, and Saturday afternoon’s concert features singers from the Western Isles, Ireland and Lowland Scotland. Mary Smith is not as well known outside Lewis as she should be, but she makes the journey from Stornoway with her authentic and beautiful repertoire of Gaelic airs, mouth music and waulking song. Kevin Mitchell has a voice like a linnet, in the highly decorated vocal style of Ulster, while Heather Heywood is a moving exponent of the ancient ballads and love songs of rural Scotland. Cy Laurie, the proprietor of the Tron, can sing there any time he fancies, but as a performer he holds his head up in any company and has many rarely heard songs of industry, migration and the long relationship across the Irish Sea
A younger, up-to-date approach is taken by Seely Hoo and Heather lnnes with Tandem in the Saturday evening concert, the former featuring the tremendous fiddle, guitar and piano of Drkney’s Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley in a strong six-piece line up. A final late addition to the bill includes fiddler and consummate singer Willie Beaton down from Lochcarron on a roving commission. (Norman Chalmers)
Tron Tavern Festival of Folk, Tron Tavern, Edinburgh, Thurs 1-Sun 4.
The List 2—15 December 1994 41