ROCK Mark Eitzel
Edinburgh: La Belle Angele Sun 15 Jun.
’Peter writes really big choruses. He likes pop hooks, and I . . . I don’t care either way. But I really never end up making songs with big hooks because, well, unfortunately, they don’t interest me that much. I like subtle music.’
Even in his old band, American Music Club, Eitzel was subtle, but his solo work since then has been easy to overlook in the torrent of new bands and singer-songwriters from across the Atlantic. And anyway, he says, ’lt’s like all the American Music Club fans despise everything I've done since.’ However, his haunting, downbeat,
new album, West, a collaboration t
with Peter Buck, might pick up a bit more interest than normal as a result of the REM guitarist’s involvement. The seeds were sown early last year, when the two met after an Eitzel show in Seattle.
’I told him if he was ever in San Francisco I knew where the best restaurants were,’ Eitzel recounts. ’A few months later, he actually came to San Francisco, and he came back in October again, and he brought down a bass, and he was going to play bass on a couple of tracks. We were playing these songs, and he said, "I really like this music," and I said, "Well, let’s just write songs." So, within three hours, we had three songs and it just continued.’
Playing on the album were Buck's ’other' band, Tuatara, a jazzy ensemble of whom Eitzel thoroughly approves for their ability, unlike most rock players, to play quiet without playing s-l-o-w. They’ll quite likely appear on the next Eitzel record too, which he and Buck plan to write in July, right after Mark’s finished recording ten songs with The Rachels ('they’re like a string quartet with drums and piano’) from Kentucky. He’s already finished another album since West.
He’s not a man who thinks in rock-biz language. ’I don’t view albums as, like, the next stylistic thing,’ he warns. ’l’m not going to do a trip hop record now.’ And
Eitzel and Buck form their own exclusive American music club
he doesn’t even think about how he would define ’success’ since it’s never going to happen. Not to him. The closing lines of the album — ’No one cares if I live or die’ — become all the more chilling when you talk to Eitzel and realise, jings, at the time, at least, he probably meant it.
’All I want to do is write songs. I know that, in Britain, American artists who say that are almost worthless,’ he chuckles, ‘the last thing that Britain needs is another fuckin' American singer-songwriter — but, I dunno, it’s all I’ve really wanted to do.’
JAZZ FUNK Ray Gaskins Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Fri 20 Jun.
Ray Gaskins: fusing funk and jazz
Followmg a flurry of concert activny, the jazz scene draws breath ahead of the impending arrival of the Glasgow International Jazz Festival on Friday 27 June. The action, though, does not let up entirely, but the lows of live interest swnches to the club scene rather than the concert hall leCUll.
That is interesting in itself, because there is now a substantial young audience for jazz who are hearing the mu5ic not in the conventional places, but in the context of dance clubs and dance-based mUSlC. That audience are picking up on classIc jazz both through Dls playing the music and sampling as part of dance tracks, and are also exploring the whole spectrum of jazz- funk and Latin jazz options.
It is a development With potentially far-reaching consequences for the way jazz is presented and marketed to its audience. The Big Beat at La Belle Angele is a leading player in all of this, and their latest live presentation wrll bring saxophonist, singer and all-round showman Ray Gaskins to Edinburgh for
the first time.
Gaskins took up reSidence in London Via his native Baltimore and New York, and is probably best known for his work in Roy Ayers’s popular jazz-funk outfit. He credits the Vibist wrth helping him pull through a bad phase of drink and drug abuse after the death of his wife in 1993.
‘l have to give it to Roy — he dealt with me. He didn't have to, but I guess he saw something in me, and he set me straight. My priority With my own band is to involve the audience with the music. The more energetic the crowd is, the better the mUSlC lS, because the energy goes back and forth between the audience and the band.’
Gaskins has also worked with the likes of Phyllis Hyman, Jocelyn Brown and the Brand New HeaVies, and co-led aCld-laZZ outfit Fishbelly Black With George Mitchell, while his own reputation was boosted by the reception of his Shady Lane album for Lipstick records last year.
La Féte de la Musique
Edinburgh: Institut Francais D'Ecosse Sat 21 Jun.
Somehow, a summer's day filled with music, streets and villages up and down the country echoing to the sounds of live instruments and voices, has never seemed to have quite the same potential to catch on in Britain as it has in France. And it hasn't. British efforts to emulate France’s National Music Day have spluttered on fairly miserably in recent years.
One exception, however, is La Fete de la Musique in Edinburgh, part of the wonderful cultural bridge built between Scotland and France by the Institut Francais D'Ecosse. On Midsummer’s Day, everything from African drums to bagpipes, by way of concertina and choirs can be heard at the lnstitut's Randolph Crescent building and garden.
According to Institut director, Stéphane Crouzat, the music day was initiated in 1982 through the Ministry of Culture. ’The idea,’ he explains, ’was to have a whole day and evening when people throughout France could play and listen to all sorts of music and all sorts of people could be involved. Since 1987, we’ve tried to re-create that spirit at the French lnstitute.’
Although it will not go on all day, the evening, from 6pm through to midnight, is certainly jam-packed. World music includes Afridonia, a professional drumming group from Edinburgh who appear as part of the Scotland Africa 97 programme, the Naga Mas gamelan from Glasgow and a carnyx (a very early Scottish wind instrument) rendition from the National Museums of Scotland. More conventional classical comes from St Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh University Renaissance Singers and pianist David Paul Jones. On the traditional front, Simon Thoumire and his English concertina top the bill. Food and wine are, of course, essentials which will be in plentiful supply. With some understatement, Crouzat reckons that 'it will be a most entertaining evening.’
The only sad note is that after being in Scotland for four years, Crouzat (who may be seen and heard playing gamelan) is being moved back to Paris at the end of August. During his posting to Edinburgh, which has witnessed the birth of his son and daughter, he has made a huge contribution to international cultural exchange. We thank and pay tribute to him. (Carol Main)
Simon Thoumire: helping to celebrate National Music Day
13—26 Jun 1997 THE lIST 51