Simon Thoumire Quintet
Glasgow: Ramshorn Theatre, Fri 7 Mar.
The spirit of co-operation between Scottish jazz and folk musicians achieves another landmark this month. Concertina wizard Simon Thoumire will unveil a new Scottish Arts Council commission as part of Basement Jazz’s season, with a quintet made up of jazz musicians.
Not that anyone on stage will be a stranger to cross-genre fusions. Thoumire’s regular trio features gurtarist Kevin MacKenzie (and bassist Simon Thorpe, though there is no bass for this pr0ject), saxman Phil Bancroft has conducted his own jazz-folk experiments, pianist David Milligan is half of Bachue Cafe, and drummer Iain Copeland powers up The Peatbog Fairies when he is not locked into jazz and funk grooves.
Both MacKenzie and Bancroft were part of the nine-piece STO (’the Simon Thoumire Orchestra — it was my joke on names like the RSNO and SCO') which played at the Celtic Connections festival club. Plenty of crossover experience there, then, and in many ways the quintet project is an extension of the music he wrote for the STO.
'I've written a piece in four parts, based on the theme of A Day Trip To Glasgow. It's a pre-biographical piece, depicting in advance our trip to
Simon Thoumire: folk and jazz fusion
actually play the music. It starts in the morning, follows us over for rehearsal, takes in my serious pre-gig stress, and finishes with the gig itself. I've used a march, Strathspey and reel structure, and in the last section I'll have the jazzers play the march in really straight fashion, which appeals to my sense of humour.
'From my point of view as a folkie I understand these forms, but writing for jazzers you have to think a lot more about the chords and the underlying harmony in the music, and also about the element of improvisation. I’m getting really interested in that whole area of composition now, and I’m going to have to look into how we go about getting them performed more than once.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
Nothing beats two guitars, bass, drums. Unless y0u're Morphine, of course, in which case amend that to sax, drums and two-string slide bass. Like Swimming, the fourth and latest album from the Boston trio is worth 40 minutes of anybody’s time. It’s sleazy but sharp, born in the heat of the night. You can fill in the fingerclicks just like you can the non-existent guitar. Deadpan frontman Mark Sandman once coined the tag 'implied grunge' for what Morphine do, and the actual sound they make doesn’t seem at all odd. Sandman agrees. 'It looks stranger on paper than when you listen to it. And people at shows, if they're not familiar with the band, they don't realise that there's no guitar and that the bass is only half there.‘
This tour, Sandman comes sporting a new instrument dubbed the tritar, 'a converted instrument that,has one bass string and two guitar strings played with a slide. I haven't perfected it yet. It causes an awful lot of
‘- ‘ 0's
Morphine: low rock. top sound
problems technically. Things happen to an instrument when you put strings that are so different next to each other that I never even thought of. It's a weird instrument, but on a good day it sings.’
Morphine music is broody sometimes and sexy often. The sax says R&B or jazz; the rhythms are definitely bluesy. But don’t get the idea that they’re schooled in that stuff. ’No, I like everything,’ says Sandman. 'We all played in rock bands before Morphine — regular, guitar-based bands — and I love that kind of music. The band isn't any kind of statement, it's just a sound. With the sax, it makes people think of R&B or jazz, but Dana’s much more of a rock musician, he doesn't know anything about jazz.’
Every time they've stayed in London, their hotels have overlooked Hyde Park. This is the first time they’ve been on the Kensington side. Get down with Morphine while things are looking up. (Alastair Mabbott)
I Like Swimming is released on Ryko on Mon 70 Mar. A UK tour is scheduled for May.
GLASGOW ROYAL [OllCERT HALL MONDAY IOtIt MARCH
THURSDAY 20th MARCH
+DJ'S . WITCHMAN THOMAS FELMAN & DR LX PATERSON
M A T T E
GLASGOW KING’S THEATRE MONDAY 7th [name KING'S BOX OFFICE a ncmcex'me CAsDLERIccs tel uni-22.- 5511
+KIM RI CHE Y THE ARCHES ouscow TUESDAY 8th APRIL
H j ' INCONCERT I V ‘ = GLASGOW BARROWLAND it; MONDAY14th APRIL
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MARCH P71 7' JONATHAN FIRE*EATER Sr’f EADNE; TM'CORDUROY Maigs-SPEARHEAD
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:: TI'IE DELGADOS
Fri 38- DREAM CITY FILM CLUB Sat 13- LONG FIN KILLIE
Man 17- GRETCHEN PETERS m :2. CATATONIA
TICKETS FROM VIRGIN 8: TOWER GLASGOW, VIRGIN & RIPPING EDINBURGH, SECC 810 0141-287 7777. TICKETCENTRE CANDLERIGGS 0141 -287 5511 AND BY CREDIT CARD (24HRS) ON 0141-339 8383
7-20 Mar 1997 THE UST 39