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Glasgow Art Club, 24th March 2011

This was billed as being by the David Newton Quartet, with Stewart Forbes on saxophone, but on one of his few announcements of the night, Newton insisted it was actually a Stewart Forbes Quartet in which he was playing piano. Certainly, it was Forbes who handled most of the between song chat, and the set list was reminiscent of last autumn’s Stewart Forbes – Colin Steele gig, but the leadership of the band wasn’t really important.

What was important was the music, and it was consistently of a very high quality. David Newton has the gift of sounding crisp and elegant while swinging fiercely, and Forbes is an excellent post-bop alto player with a big full sound. Alyn Cosker was characteristically driving on drums, pushing the music along nicely without ever becoming too loud. But if I’d to single one member of the band out, it would be bass player Brian Shiels.

I think it says a lot about the current high overall standard of Scottish jazz that such a fine player isn’t the guy you automatically think of when the words “Scottish jazz bassist” are uttered. There seems to have been a wave of really fine bass players based here over the past twenty years or so (if you’ll pardon the pun): Shiels himself, Kenny Ellis, Mario Caribé, Euan Burton, Calum Gourlay and Aidan O’Donnell to mention only a few (of course, the last two have now moved away). Shiels is a player who is capable of playing virtuoso and musically relevant solos, but can also handle the basic time-keeping and harmony part of the role admirably. He was featured on a version of “Stars fell on Alabama”, but got a fair amount of solo time over the evening as a whole.

The set list was made up entirely of standards and jazz standards. There were pieces by Charlie Parker, Cedar Walton, Charlie Parker, Ellington–Strayhorn (“Isfahan”) and two by Thelonious Monk (“Bye-ya” and “Think on one”); and there were versions of “I Remember April”, “My Foolish Heart”, “Secret Love” and “Love for Sale”. If I’d to pick one highlight though, it would be the version of “My Man”, which sandwiched a stylish Newton solo between two anguished expressive ones from Forbes.

Concerts like this show that there’s still a lot of life in classic mainstream postbop yet, and it was gratifyingly well attended.

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