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John Kenny’s Red Shift

Glasgow Art Club, Wednesday 20th October 2010

I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out: five trombones, piano, bass and drums isn’t a usual line-up, and I was worried that it was all either going to sound terribly samey, or else be utterly over the top. But it worked really well. The horn players each had their own style, and when you added in some skilful use of various mutes, there was enough variety in the arrangements to stop things getting monotonous. John Kenny added a bit of variety to the sound by playing bass trombone, plus what looked like an alto trombone (if there’s such a thing) on one number.

They played a few standards, starting with a Horace Silver tune and a version of “Surrey with a Fringe on Top”, but most of the music was written either by Rick Taylor or Tom Bancroft. Each of them contributed one longish multi-section piece, but in general I thought the shorter pieces worked better, with the stand-outs being a moving Bancroft ballad called something like “Don’t break your heart like Rikki Lee Jones” and a fast Taylor piece dedicated to one of his neighbours on Skye. If there was a stand-out soloist, it wasn’t actually any of the trombonists (John Kenny, Patrick Kenny, Chris Greive, Michael Owers and Rick Taylor), but pianist Chick Lyall. I hadn’t heard him for quite some time, but based on this performance and that on Tom Bancroft’s recent big band album, he’s now playing some of the best piano of his career. Tom Lyne on bass completed the line-up.

Paul Harrison Quintet featuring Alan Barnes

Recital Room, Sunday 24th October 2010

It’s a mark of how much Scottish jazz has come on in the past twenty-five or so years that all four local members of the Paul Harrison Quintet held their own with visiting London sax player Alan Barnes.

There were two parts to the concert: in the first, they played a suite of pieces Paul Harrison wrote for Hospitalfield House jazz venue in Arbroath, and in the second they played a selection of standards. If I’d one minor gripe about the concert, it was that I thought the order could have been reversed, as the relatively short set of standards seemed a bit light-weight compared to the much longer first set.

This was very much a Paul Harrison gig with Alan Barnes on sax (and on one duet with Harrison, clarinet) rather than Barnes plus local support. As a pianist Harrison just seems to get better and better. I don’t know if it’s the experience of accompanying a top singer as part of Carol Kidd’s group, but he’s developed a great sense of how to use the silence between phrases as part of his musical argument. One of the highlights of the evening was his trio performance of “Autumn in New York” with drummer Stuart Brown and bassist Ed Kelly. Alan Barnes and trombonist Phil O’Malley were both more than competent, but this was Harrison’s night.

Herald review by Rob Adams

A Thursday night dilemma

Drummer Asaf Sirkis’s Trio at the Glasgow Arts Club (a chance to hear what the venue sounds like with an electric band) or the Frank Vignola Trio at the Ferry? If last weekend was one for the trombone fans, this Thursday night is guitar night.