Tramway, Glasgow, 26th April 2006
This concert, part of the Triptych festival, brought together three acts who, although very different in style, worked well in combination.Grant Campbell is a young Glaswegian who sounds like an old American, with a gravelly voice and fine guitar-playing skills. His songs, in a countryish style, were pleasant but not particularly memorable.
Next up was what promised to be serious jazz part of the night – James Blood Ulmer. He played a solo set of blues songs, both original and traditional. There was a strange but fascinating contrast between the very traditional style of the songs and the much more abstract guitar playing. There was nothing in the material which couldn't have been done at by any number of 60s British blues boom bands, but the guitar fills and solos immediately reminded you that Ulmer was Ornette Coleman's regular guitarist for several years. He managed to sound utterly modern yet simultaneously hark back to the old days when the blues could have any number of bars you liked. At times I thought the need to conform to a fixed song form restricted his playing – it would have been nice to hear him stretch out with a rhythm section and a top notch sax player – but overall it was an excellent set.
Even in her seventies, Odetta, the third act has an excellent voice. She and her pianist (whose name I didn't catch) managed to revitalised several tired old blues standards, such as the St Louis Blues. There was a bit of a feeling of the classical recital to it – a fine singer performing other people's music, but that's meant as a neutral description rather than a criticism.
One tip for the Triptych organisers: if you're putting on a three-and-a-half hour concert in the Tramway, start it at 7.30 rather than 8. That way not so many people will have to leave before the end to catch their train or bus: it's annoying for them, distracting for the rest of the audience, and might give the impression of being disrespectful to the artist.