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Glasgow Art Club, 17 March 2010

Some purists may argue that the music played by Sean Noonan and Matthew Bourne on Thursday wasn’t “real jazz”. But that depends on exactly how widely you draw the borders of jazz. And what’s wrong with a bit of surreal jazz anyway? Certainly, there were no jazz standards played: the only non-original of the night was the barely recognisable version of “Wayfaring Stranger” which opened the second set.

So what did we get? The eccentrically-garbed Noonan (he came on in a boxer’s hooded gown, wich he removed to reveal a black semmit and camouflage kilt) was an excellent drummer, concentrating on fairly straightforward drumming rather than esoteric percussion sounds. He also sang, sounding much more like the singer in an indie band than a traditional jazz singer. Most of the songs were slightly surreal narrative pieces, so it was particularly unfortunate that it was often difficult to make out the words. There were songs about getting accosted by mushrooms when lost in the Bavarian forests, selkies, drunken landladies, contests between man and steam hammer, and tales of anti-Irish discrimination in Boston and NYC, but it was difficult to make out the details of what exactly was going on in them.

Next to him, Matthe Bourne had a variety of keyboards set up. He mainly played electric piano and synthesizer, frequently playing one line on one instrument and acccompanying it on another. He also played a bit of acoustic piano, mainly in the “Improv Bouts” in the middle of the concert, in which the two musicians took it turn about to try to play a free improvised passage which would respond to, but outdo, the one their colleague had just played.

The majority of the concert was made up of relatively more orthodox pieces, though, with definite melodies and riffs, even if the music was hardly conventional bebop. The overall sound world wasn’t a jazz one, more that of a sort of New York downtown No-Wave jazz-rock fusion. The musical comparisons which sprang to mind were Frank Zappa, Return to Forever meets Sonic Youth, John Zorn and Django Bates.

This was an interesting and enjoyable evening, even if a bit away from the type of music Bridge Jazz usually put on. I suspect it was a concert which would appeal more to Wire readers than to Jazz Journal readers.

Bourne to Brew’s Newcastle concert earlier in the week is reviewed on the Bebop Spoken Here website. If you read the comments, you’ll see that it divided opinions.

Next Thursday’s concert is by the rather more conventional (but excellent) David Newton, who’s appearing in a quartet with Stewart Forbes.

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