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Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 23rd September 2009

This was the first of three concerts, each of which gave several bands a chance to show what they could do in front of an audience made up largely, although not entirely, of jazz promoters from around Europe. Each act played for about 25 minutes.

Stu Brown’s Raymond Scott Project

Stu Brown’s transcriptions of compositions by American bandleader and composer Raymond Scott. A lot of the compositions will be familiar to anyone who has watched classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, although they were originally written for radio broadcasts. The music isn’t really jazz, but a lot of the phrasing, and the use of growl trumpet, means that it’s hard to imagine it played by anyone other than jazz musicians. Great fun.

Tom Cawley’s Curios

Curios? Curious. Of the night’s four bands, they were the one I thought suffered from having to play an abbreviated set. Their music utilised an assortment of disparate styles: EST-like vamps, romantic melody, freeish improvisation. The one thing which was missing was any real sense of swing. The three musicians – Tom Cawley on piano, Sam Burgess on bass, and Josh Blackmore on drums – were all excellent, but they never really managed to combine the different elements of their music into a unified whole. I’d like to hear a full-length performance by them to see if they can bring everything together. As it was, this was fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.

Ryan Quigley Sextet

This was an altered version of band which recorded last year’s excellent Laphraoig-ian Slip. The rhythm section of Alyn Cosker and Mario Caribe remained the same, but Konrad Wiszniewski and Paul Towndrow replaced Paul Booth and Laura MacDonald on tenor and alto, and Brian Kellock made a guest appearance on piano. They opened and closed with fiery hard bop pieces from the album, with Towndrow taking a particularly fine solo on “Buzzy Bee”, and in between we were treated to a fine trumpet and piano duo version of “Embraceable You”. The most straightforwardly enjoyable jazz of the night, but also the most conservative.

Get the Blessing

Inventive jazz-rock from a Bristol quartet. The trumpeter and sax player both made use of a wide-range of electronic effects. The overall effect was a bit like early-70s electronic Miles, but with catchy tunes and short pieces, or like 80s one-hit wonders Pigbag with serious jazz soloing. There was a lot of Ornette Coleman in the mix too. I’ve generally not been too impressed by the new-wave of UK electric jazz, but I enjoyed Get the Blessing and would happily go to see a full concert by them.

Euphbass has a review of this concert, and the second in the series, on her blog. I’m sure I saw an overview of the series by Rob Adams in the print version of the Herald, but it doesn’t seem to have made it to the online version.