Glasgow International Jazz Festival
Tom Narrell: music is a healing force in his struggle with schizophrenia
JAZZ TRUMPET Tom Harrell Octet McEwan's Old Fruitmarket, Thu 3 Jul.
In the early 90$, jazz music gave birth to a new young generation of slick torch-bearers for neo-bop traditionalism. As the decade advanced, however, the surface lustre attaching to some of the new generation rubbed off to reveal a duller sheen beneath. The musicians who were leap-frogged in the rush to canonize the kids have at last begun to receive their due.
Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Tom Harrell are perfect examples of musicians by-passed in that way, who are now securing big-label contracts and winning jazz polls on the basis of genuine achievements rather than media-friendly exteriors. Both came up the hard way, putting in long years as sidemen before getting the chance to step into the spotlight.
Tom Harrell's story is all the more remarkable because he was diagnosed as schizophrenic in his early twenties, and has been taking heavy neuroleptic medication ever since. The treatment wards off the worst effects of his condition, but also affects his control over movement
JAZZ PIANO Geri Allen Trio McEwan’s Old Fruitmarket, Fri 4 Jul.
Geri Allen: 'you have to find
your own wav’ my music.’
16 THE UST 27 Jun—10 Jul 1997
Geri Allen stands among the most and adventurous of contemporary jazz pianists. She has fulfilled the promise she showed in the 805, working with the likes of Oliver Lake, the late Julius Hemphill, or in a wonderful trio With Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. Her music always possesses an individual informed by consciously alluding to the great jazz piano tradition, but given a spin that is distinctly her own.
’I'm of a different generation,’ says Allen. ’The best I can do is study the tradition and the great pianists, try to live in the present in terms of my own environment and what I experienced growing up, and be honest about that.
’You can never duplicate someone else’s greatness; you have to find your own way. That’s part of what the tradition is about, but I always like to have freedom to move in and out With
and speech, leaving him physically listless. Except when he plays, and undergoes a dramatic physical as well as spiritual transformation, a literal embodiment of living in the music.
'Music is vital for me,’ he says. 'lt's the thing that gives meaning to my life. When I started playing, it seemed very natural to me to be a musician, and the longer I played, the closer I felt to the spiritual aspect of the music. When I hear what people say about it, and when I feel the way I feel when I'm playing it, I know it really is a healing force.’
Harrell was best known for an extended stint in the Phil Woods Quintet in the 805, but his own career as leader moved to a higher level with his Labyrinths album for RCA last year. It allowed him to work out his ideas with larger ensembles than his customary quintet.
‘I wanted to do that for a long time, and the new album I am working on will introduce different kinds of rhythms as well, from the Caribbean and Latin America,’ he says. ’l'm always searching for ways to take the music forward, and to create musical situations which make me play in ways I've never played before, and to let the others around me do the same.’
The Detroit—born pianist’s string of 90s albums for Blue Note has been rightly praised. The latest of them Will be released at the end of June to c0inCide With her visit to the UK, With a trio which includes the great Lenny White on drums. The album, Eyes . . In The Back Of Your Head features her husband, trumpeter Wallace Roney, and the alto saxophone of Ornette Coleman, one of a number of very diverse creative talents who have called on her servrces in their own work.
'There are times when I am very focussed as a leader, and there are times when I really do enjoy stepping into other people's universes for a time,' says Allen. 'I believe domg that gives you a great chance to look more closely at your own ~ yOu have more clarity when you come back to your own musical universe after working With someone like Ornette Coleman OI Betty Carter.‘ (Joe Alexander)
Glasgow: The McEwans Old Fruitmarket, Mon 30 Jun.
If you’re a chord-contemplating, beard- tWiddling kind-of-a jazz fan, Tom Bancroft's multi-media MultiStory KarmaPark is probably not for you. If, however, you’re willing to let a little dance, video and spoken text get in the way of serious musical appreciation, you could be in for a treat. Or at very least an experience.
The brainchild of respected Edinburgh drummer, composer and band leader Bancroft (brother of sax player Phil Bancroft), KarmaPark pools the talents of top European jazz and folk musicians like piper Martyn Bennett with unexpected bedfellows, such as playwright David Greig, animator/live video artist Walter McCrorie and choreographers Vanessa Smith and Ruby Worth.
The structure of this mad jazz adventure is loose and partly improvised: the theme is one of twenty-plus individuals relating their life stories (hence the MultiStory KarmaPark) and contemplating their futures in the wider world.
This may sound like cacophony to you and me, but if Bancroft’s past escapades are anything to go by, it might just catch on.
Playing genre-busting, boundary- crossing jazz all the while, Bancroft has dressed his bands Orange Ear Ensemble and The Tom Bancroft Orchestra up in everything from, er, orange plastic ears to animal costume. He’s written plate-smashing into the score and run amok in venues — and he’s picked up rave reviews every time. MultiStory KarmaPark, in all its multi- media glory, seems the logical conclusion of all this.
His willingness to jump into bed with other art forms has not always gone down so well with Bancroft's jazz- purist colleagues. 'Some peOpIe look down on it, and it’s like the music is the only thing that counts,’ he admits. ’There are people around that do stuff because the music isn’t so strong. But that’s not where I'm coming from at all. These are the strongest musicians I know.’
Behind the orange plastic ears then, Bancroft is as serious about his sounds as the next jazzer. (Ellie Carr)
Martyn Bennett: orange plastic ears covered by bunnet, obviously