EDINBURGH JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVALS PREVIEW
When the spirit moves
Kenny Mathieson hears the gospel truth from Clarence Fountain.
‘Basically. all that black music is the same. but you know. gospel music was first. A whole lot of people don't believe that. but let rrre explain it to you. Gospel was here before Man was — the Devil was one ofthe chiefangels in the Heavenly Choir until God got tired of him and kicked him out. and that proves that gospel was here before anything else. because it was here before Man. From gospel came the blues. and from the blues came jazz. and that‘s how it goes all down the line — everything came from gospel.‘
That account of the origins of his music comes from veteran gospel singer Clarence Fountain. co-founder of the celebrated gospel group The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. The group first canre together in the late 30s. and are still going strong after live decades devoted to praising the Lord. both in the traditional church context and in festivals and concerts around the world.
‘We started out way back when we were all kids in school at the Taladega Institute for the Blind down in Alabama. and we started to sing right there. We started in school. then we sang in church. and then we began to take our music out to people in concerts and the like.’
The gospel vocal groups thrived before the war. when the likes of the Golden Gate Quartet and the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet became early black recording stars. Groups like the The
Five Blind Boys of Alabama. and the similarly named Blind Boys of Mississippi. led by the charismatic Archie Brownlee. carried on that tradition, and have survived changes of fashion which saw the rise ofboth virtuoso soloists (in the wake of the incomparable Mahalia Jackson) and the now familiar gospel choirs.
Unlike such artists as Aretha Franklin and Al Green. who launched pop and soul careers from a base in gospel. Fountain and his associates have never been tempted to move out oftheir chosen ﬁeld. although he recognises that temptation is always there.
‘There was no way we were going to move over into blues or pop or rock or anything else. We have nothing against the blues — we know a lot ofblues singers, and they like to come hear us sing. The difference is that we sing about Jesus. and they sing about their baby.
‘I believe that God gave us a will to do whatever we want to do. I know that there is more money in blues orjazz or soul music than there is in gospel. because there are more people that listen to that kind of music. but if you
“Blind Boys of Alabama: sweet southern gospel
stay with God and do his will. He promised to supply our needs. I never wanted to be rich. but just be able to take each day as it comes along. and that has worked out good for me.‘
The group expanded their audience with their participation in the successful musical The Gospel xlt Calmtus and their Grammy-award winning album Deep River ( I993). Fountain. though. sees no contradiction between their faith and their participation in the commercial aspects of music.
‘Wbat the world needs now is more love. and God is love. When we sing at concerts. we try to make people feel something that they may not have felt before. and that is the spirit of God. We feel we have that spirit in us. and we can transfer that from us to the people. and that is the proper way to do things.‘
The Blind Boys will make their Jazz Festival debut in the suitably atmospheric setting of St Giles Cathedral. which will also house an earlier Jazz and Gospel ()rgan Recital (see Jazz Festival listings. Mon 7).
The Five Blind Boys (if/flabama play at St Giles Cathedral on Fri 1/.
[term- Jungle fever
the Edinburgh Jazz Festival is not usually considered to be a showcase for bands at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, but every now and again they spring a surprise. This is the Festival, after all, which gave the late Sun Ra his only Scottish gig, and if Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra are not as cosmically far out as that, they are one of the most innovative and consistently satisfying ensembles in European jazz.
Guitarist Pierre Dorge first formed the band in 1980, and took their name from one of Duke Ellington’s recording orchestras, the Jungle Band. It is appropriate, then, that they should be playing their own distinctive versions of the Duke’s music in Edinburgh, culled from their most recent album, Karaivane.
Alongside Ellington, though, the classically-trained Dorge also lists such diverse figures as Ornette Coleman, Frank Zappa and John tchical as his major influences, and his music has also been strongly flavoured by an absorption in Arabic,
African and Eastern musical traditions. the band, which can vary in size as required, is very much a collaborative, open-minded — and open-cared - affair, sucking in and creatively transforming the varied sound world which surrounds all of us in the global marketplace.
the New Jungle Orchestra were appointed the state ensemble of Denmark for 1993-96, and it is on the back of that enlightened honour that they will make their first visit to these parts. they are preceded by eleven albums, including the classic Brlkama
(1984) and Johnny lives (1987),
New Jungle Orchestra: intrepid explorers
dedicated to the late Johnny Dyani, a one-time member of the band (Oorge returned the compliment by playing in Dyani’s Witchdoctor’s Sun outfit).
I’m not entirely sure what the generally rather conservative audience at this Festival will make of them, but for this writer at least, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival - and the Danish Cultural Institute - has done another great favour to contemporary
[rumm- Middle ground
Roy Williams: a great Brit
3 Mainstream jazz is an area which rarely
jazz. Don’t miss them. (Kenny Mathieson)
The New Jungle Orchestra play at the Festival Theatre (8pm) and The Cotton Club (11.45pm) on Wed 9.
attracts much in the way of media attention. but its practitioners continue to produce high quality music without much fuss or fanfare. Thus it is with the Great British Jazz Band. a collection of leading figures on the UK scene who have come together to take their music a further step forward.
The ten-piece band is built on the foundation of a classic mainstream line-up. but with each of the horns —< trumpet. trombone. saxophone or clarinet — doubled. The band fulfils a long-standing ambition for two of its players. trumpeter Digby Fairweather and trombonist l’ete Strange. and allows the latter to burnish his arranging skills. already finely-honed in Humphrey l.yttelton‘s band.
Mainstream jazz is an amalgamation of the pioneering New Orleans style of the 20s with the smoother swing development of the 30s. and a dash of the greater harmonic complexity ushered in by Bebop in the 40s. All of that is evident on the band's debut recording. Jubilee! (Candid).
They can sound like a Dixieland crrserrrble on one tune. and a big band on the next. and sorrre of the interplay between the paired horns is deliciously subtle in its shadings. That is hardly surprising. given the quality of the players involved ~ Fairweather and Mike Cotton on trumpets. Strange and Roy Williams on trombones. and John Barnes and Dave Shepherd on reeds. all underpinned by a swinging rhythm section of Brian Lemon on piano. l.en Skeat on bass. and drunrmer Allan Ganley.
They feed off each others‘ playing to great effect. and all of them (with the possible exception of Lemon) are heard to best advantage in this kind of collaborative setting. The Great British Jazz Band has been a while in coming. but now that it is here. these guys clearly rrrean business. Catch their Scottish debut performances at the Festival. (Kenny Mathieson)
’l'lre (ireat Britt's/t Jar: [Jam/play The Run 'l'lreatre (5.20pm) am! The
Queen '5' Hall (//.45pm) on Sun 6, am/ The ('uttmr (‘lab (9. [Spur am/
l //.45pm) on Mir/1 7.
J The List 28 Jul-l0 Aug 1995 23