Laura Macdonald – Martina Almgren Quartet

Recital Rooms, Glasgow City Hall, 7th February 2008

The headline, from an article in the Scotsman about the band, was simply too good not to steal.

I’d gone along to their concert last year, not knowing what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. This time, because my expectations were higher, I was quite prepared for it not to be as good as I remembered last year’s gig being. I needn’t have worried.

They played all the material from their new album Open Book, plus “Bingo”, the title track from Martina Almgren’s previous recording. The strength of the set was that, while they were playing contemporary post-Coltrane jazz, both the material itself and the way it was played were very melodic. Almgren’s pieces were particularly impressive, but the performance it hung together as an integrated whole. If it hadn’t been for the between song announcements, I couldn’t have told that there were two writers.

The main difference between this year’s gig and last year’s were that Laura Macdonald stuck to alto for the whole show, whereas IIRC she also played some soprano last year, and Almgren used drumsticks a lot more this time round, whereas previously she’d stuck to brushes. The quartet, with Paul Harrison on piano and Mario Caribé on bass, also seemed a more integrated unit, presumably because they’d worked together a bit more.

One wee thing I noticed about the marketing: the Scottish gigs were by the Laura Macdonald – Martina Almgren Quartet, whereas the album, on a Swedish label, is by Martina Almgren and Laura Macdonald. The homegirl gets top billing each time.

Rob Adams’ Herald review of their Edinburgh gig.