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Glasgow Art Club, 10th March 2011

There’s a long tradition of jazz gigs being better in the second half than in the first, and Thursday night’s performance by Iain Copeland’s X-Men was another such evening. It’s not always easy to say why, but on this occasion I think it was largely down to the set list.

Despite being written by such electric jazz luminaries as John Scofield and David Sanborn, much of the material in the first set was pretty non-descript, the exception to this being a heavy-duty James Brown meets Paul Desmond funk version of “Take Five”.

The tunes in the second half simply seemed stronger and more varied. An original by guitarist Malcolm MacFarlane, called either “Plainsong” or “Plane Song”, started out with a moody out-of-tempo section before settling into a steady groovy; a version of “Isn’t She Lovely” gave Nigel Hitchcock the chance to fashion a profound solo out of slightly unlikely material; Pat Metheny’s melodic “Song for Bilbao”; and, to finish, one of Ornette Coleman’s best-known tunes – the name of which I’m ashamed to say escapes me – done in a funky rhythm and blues style (but, of course, much of Ornette’s music is all about the blues anyway).

Drummer and leader Iain Copeland, and bassist John Spiers – who switched back and forward between double bass and bass guitar – were an excellent jazz-funk rhythm section. Malcolm MacFarlane, who produced a wide range of sounds from a hollow-body Telecaster and an impressive array of effects pedals, was equally adept at producing atmospheric backgrounds and interesting solos, and Nigel Hitchcock played consistently fine sax. They were joined for one number by Fraser Shaw on whistle and Adam Sutherland (from Copeland’s other band, the Peatbog Faeries) on fiddle, which added an interesting folk tinge to what was generally a night of late 80s / early 90s style electric jazz.

Overall, another good night at the Glasgow Art Club, and one which drew a healthy crowd. This week it’s the turn of Sean Noonan and Matthew Bourne (the pianist, not the ballet guy),