13th May 2006

This was the launch event for “Jazz Glasgow“, an umbrella organisation to promote jazz in Glasgow. There were two big bands playing in the main City Hall, and a small group in the Recital Room.

The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra

They played music by a range of composers and arrangers, including versions of Hoedown and Moten Swing. While they are very good as a unit, most of the soloists haven’t yet got any real individuality in their soloing, although they were all technically more than competent. Two of them in particular look like names to look out for in future: trumpeter Liam Heath (who’s only 13!) and altoist Rachel Cohen. Although the Scottish jazz scene is as strong as I remember it ever being, it’s slightly short of good brass players, so it was good to hear so many talented trumpeters and trombonists. I’m not sure what the upper limit for the band is, but none of them looked older than their early 20s.

The European Youth Jazz Orchestra

By contrast, the EYJO seem to set their age limit at about 30. Compared to the Tommy Smith outfit, these were definitely young adults rather than teenagers. There are seventeen folk in the band, each from a different country (but when did Canada and the USA become part of Europe?). According to the publicity, they were going to play a set of tunes by Julian Joseph and Barry Forgie, but only played one Joseph tune, most of the rest of the set being Forgie originals. They were a really tight, swinging band, but I found a lot of the material a bit dull. I’m not a fan of the tight, well-drilled Thad Jones – Mel Lewis style of big-band writing, and that was what was on offer here. The soloists in general had a bit more originality to them than in the TSYJO, and it was particularly interesting to hear just how much difference there was between the sound of the two tenor sax players.

Konrad Wisniewski Quartet with Stephen Duffy

After the event in the main hall had finished, Konrad Wisniewski played two short sets for recording by the BBC. Wisniewski’s always well worth hearing, and what sets him apart from a lot of other young players is that, although he can play the hundred-notes-a-second stuff when he wants to, he seems to have grasped that it’s not how many notes you play that counts, but which notes you play. I hadn’t come across pianist Euan Stevenson before, but he was very impressive. The first set consisted of originals, and in the second the quartet were joined by singer Stephen Duffy for a set of standards. Duffy was a good rather than great singer, but it was nice to hear classic old tunes by folk like Cole Porter and Harold Arlen.