La Bottine Souriante Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket, Sun 3i Jan.
Formed twenty years ago in Quebec, La Bottine Souriante (Smiling Boots!) has grown from its folky beginnings as a trio playing French Canadian traditional music, to a nine-strong ensemble that travels with a sound man, monitor mixer and lighting technician. Together, they create a complex, sophisticated and carefully scored music, that leaves room for the occasional improvisation, but still remains faithful to its Gallic roots.
Fronted in expansive braces and hat by the ample form of Yves Lambert, a vocalist who plays various accordions superbly, but is equally handy on mouth organ and jaws harp, the band can, and often do, create a colossal wall of sound. But they are also capable of winsome lyricism in a set that moves from gentle solo fiddle, to full-blown jazzy piano/acoustic bass/squeeze box and four-piece brass section, the latter sporting two hugely effective trombones, including the bass version.
Tight as a Swiss banker, the band's incredibly invigorating rhythms come straight from the feet of Michel Bordeleau. Sitting down, he handles fiddle, mandolin and guitar, all the while driving the band
Alain Genty Band: they use Mescal. sort of
preview CELTIC CONNECTIONS
La Bottine Souriante: happy soles
along with his astonishing footwork, loud metal inserts on the soles of his boots giving the band its distinctive sound. Hand-clapping, tiny shakers and the occasional brush on a snare drum add occasional texture to what is one of the most powerful, rhythmically infectious bands in the world. Tenor saxman Jean Frechette's arrangements add great swathes of very imaginative, ear-bending harmony and punchy punctuation, crazy flights of fancy and even the occasional pantomime soundscape.
All singers, their repertoire moves from the Quebecois traditional to old Acadien songs, cafe waltzes, Waits-like talking blues, borrowings from Scots/Irish dance music, a number about distiller‘s droop set to a Glen Miller swing, voodoo vocals with quirky Dr John piano, and gumbos that come to a sudden dead end. Then start again at full volume.
Throughout their big instrumental sets no-one can sit still —- or stop smiling.- And, as an added bonus, the lithely percussive Sandy Silva, the American dancer with Kevin Burke’s Open House, will be joining La Bottine on stage, her own sizzlingly syncopated take on Appalachian clog, Hungarian slapping, American tap, Cape Breton step and Spanish flamenco making even the cold Old Fruitmarket feel hot. (Norman Chalmers)
finger on it. Their approach is different. It’s so removed from the Scots/Irish. The improvisation is fascinating, I’m part of the rhythm section, so I don’t really improvise, but I feel that what
influences. Alain’s working a lot with African musicians from Morocco and Algeria. That comes into his arrangements, which are carefully
you look closely it might resemble
not quite.’ With a big line-up that includes the
Alain Genty Band
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sunday Times Suite, Wed 27; Old Fruitmarket, Thu 28.
Scots acoustic guitarist Tony McManus’s star continues to rise. He’s been invited to perform at a Festival of the Guitar this year, keeping company with the likes of Martin Taylor, Mike Stern and Isaac Guillory. As usual, he’s also highly visible around Celtic Connections, as the accompanist to fiddler-in-residence Alasdair Fraser for a
start, but there are a couple of gigs he’s especially looking forward to, having just come back from rehearsals in Paris with some of his favourite musicians in Breton bassist Alain Genty’s hand-picked band.
’I bent their ear,’ chuckles McManus. ’I heard their guitarist was off playing with Charles Aznavour or somebody and so I got the gig; but they know me, I’ve played with most of them before.’
No stranger to north-west France, McManus loves Breton .music even if,
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sunday Times Suite, Sun 31 Jan.
The New Voices lunchtime concerts present original, larger-scale works within the broad remit of Celtic Connection. Andy Thorburn’s choral piece was a success in the opening week and there are two more to come: a suite by the eight-strong Cauld Blast Orchestra, and a new work by Glasgow-based harpist and composer Karen Marshalsay, who admits it’s been the chance to ’pull all the things that interest me together. Latin music. African rhythms, and percussion. And some Scottish music! It does start off with a sort of march, strathspey and reel and finds its way back there at the end.’
With three harps — well, actually four: the bray (a medieval buzzing sound), the wire-strung clarsach, gut-strung contemporary celtic, and nylon-strung Paraguayan, but only three at any one time — played by the composer, Scotland's Heather Yule and English historic harper Bill Taylor, the music is a 45 minute-long dynamic exploration of melody in rhythm. Very much rhythm. She’s using two percussionists, Davey Cattanach from Scots band the Old Blind Dogs, and Ballet Rambert hand percussionist Keith Bleasby, as well as her ’own Paraguayan harp as a rhythm instrument. I use my fingernails to get
the sound — it’s more like tuned 5
percussion.’ Marshalsay’s no stranger to beaters,
shakers and grooves. She’s a former '
musical director of She-Boom, the
Glasgow all-women drummers, has collaborated with Ghanaian kora ; masters, played in African crossover -
band Kakatsitsi, and lived and worked
j for a period in Brixton where ’we found the Scottish stuff didn’t work so 5 well with African musicians. Things like
he admits ’I find it hard to put my
we’re playing is more like jazz than traditional music. Then there’s other
thought out. Very precise. I mean, if g
traditional music as you know it. But ;
celebrated Mollard brothers on fiddle i
and pipes (including the little Breton biniou), lannick Jory on soprano and tenor sax, drummer Patrick Boileau, and truly exquisite flute player John- Michel Veillon, the band creates a wonderful, shifting soundscape, from the gently pastoral, to minimalist grooves, to the full war cry of the band augmented by Mescal. No, not the hallucinogen, but five pipers from Bagad D’Aury who storm the stage for the last few numbers.
strathspeys. But they understood the Latin music immediately, playing three against two straight off.’
All this is finding its way into her all- instrumental new piece. After the opening Scottish theme, the second part takes up various time signatures from a simple waltz, the third part explores more complicated rhythmic patterns, leaning towards Latin, and
the fourth experiments with the
African dimension. The piece, she feels, ’represents, I suppose, my journey. My travels in music and with people.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Karen Marshalsay: sharp on a harp
21 Jan—4 Feb 1999 THE LIST21