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Glasgow Art Club, 17th February 2011

Last week’s concert by the Classic Jazz Orchestra featured a wide range of music, from a wide variety of writers. This week’s performance featured at least as wide a variety of styles, but from far fewer pens: all the material was written by pianist Alister Spence or saxophonist Raymond MacDonald, or freely improvised by the members of the quartet.

Overall, there were three main styles to the set: a sort of improvised minimalism, a knotty freebop, and total free improvisation.

The band seemed fond of starting a track with repeated chiming chords or arpeggios in the piano, before bass-player Joseph Williamson stepped in with the main melody. They made interesting use of sound: Spence spent some of the time playing the strings of the piano directly, or processing the piano sound electronically; and drummer Christopher Cantillo was as interested in creating atmospheric percussion sounds from his cymbals, or from bells or a glockenspiel as he was in straightforward time-keeping. One section of the concert consisted of a series of linked freely-improvised duets: piano and bass leading into bass and percussion leading into percussion and saxophone. I was very impressed by Alister Spence’s piano playing: he was as adept at playing delicate minimalist filigrees as he was at laying down funky riffs.

This was a fascinating nights’ music, even if I found some parts of it easier to get into than others. And it was good to see a healthy turnout for what was hardly the most commercial of bands.

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