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The Ferry, 31 July 2009

This was my first visit to the Ferry since it was renovated and moved across the river. It’s now a rather attractive space inside, with a balcony with tables around three sides of the central performing space, and much improved toilets. On the downside, it’s no longer so obviously a converted ship floating on the river: it feels as if it could just as easily be a basement or attic club. And although the newly-renovated waterfront is is very nice on a pleasant summer evening, I’m not sure how welcoming the area will be in the depths of winter. Still, it’s generally an improvement on what it was like before, it’s got good acoustics, and you’re trusted enough to be given a proper glass for your drink. Glasgow still lacks an ideal venue for small-to-medium scale jazz concerts, but on this showing The Ferry has a lot going for it.

I was slightly apprehensive about this being a performance of Maynard Ferguson’s stuff: the little I’d heard by him struck me as going in for volume and high-note trumpet acrobatics more than subtlety. But the variety of arrangements and wide range of styles of music, from mainstream big band pieces to funky rock-influenced numbers meant that this wasn’t a problem.

The first thing that struck me about the band was the number people in it I didn’t recognise: there were several well-kent faces, including Euan Burton, Steve Hamilton, Paul Towndrow and Martin Kershaw; but there were also several folk I wasn’t aware of ever having seen before, including a female baritone sax player (Heather McIntosh?). Where are they all coming from? It’s good to see that there’s now such a depth of talent in Scotland. In previous generations you still got the absolutely top rank players coming through (the Deuchars and Temperleys) but they tended to outclass the other locals. What I’m becoming more and more impressed by is how good the average Scottish jazz musician now is.

Ryan Quigley himself took most of the solos: he played high, he played fast, but he never resorted to simple showing off. My favourite bit of the show? The five sax break in “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin'”. Other highlights included the versions of “Speak Low”, the funky number after it which I didn’t catch the name of, “Birdland” and a just stopping short of going over the top arrangement of “MacArthur Park”.

Fellow Glasgow music blogger Euphbass also has a review of the gig on her site, including a photo.