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Glasgow Art Club, 21st April 2011

Since I last saw them, Brass Jaw have added a rhythm section. Well, to be precise, Ryan Quigley sometimes played a foot-operated cowbell as well as trumpet and Paul Towndrow occasionally joined in on cabasa (again played using a floor pedal). More significantly, they’ve also released an new CD, the excellent Branded, and much of the material they played came from that.

Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual. There were fine solos from all of them: Allon Beauvoisin might spend much of his time acting as a substitute bass player, but he showed he can be a nifty soloist when he gets the chance; there’s a good contrast between Paul Towndrow’s spiky alto playing and Konrad Wiszniewski’s bluesy tenor, and Ryan Quigley does a fine job of applying a brassy Maynard Ferguson approach to the trumpet to more contemporary material.

One of this band’s real strengths is the variety of their playing. They can produce a smooth, blended sound, as on Quigley’s “I Like You” or go for a more jagged riff and solo approach. The balance between arranged and improvised music seems to vary from piece to piece: “Frontiere Incarcerated” was largely made up of a couple of free-ish duets (tenor-baritone then alto-trumpet) whereas their inventive arrangement of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” didn’t have much in the way of obvious soloing in it. And though they played tunes by Zappa and the Beatles, they demonstrated their awareness of jazz tradition by using “52nd Street Theme” as their final encore to close the night.

So, pretty much the mixture as before, except that they just get better and better. What makes them stand out, I think, is the way that they demonstrate that it’s possible to play serious modern jazz and still be great fun.

Special thanks should go to Allon Beauvoisin’s wife for driving across town to pick up his spare baritone when it looked as if his main horn was about to pack up. And Konrad looked good in his new glasses.

Jennifer from Euphbass was also at this gig, and Rob Adams reviewed their Edinburgh show in the Herald.

Brass Jaw then headed off for Estonia, where they’ve been on breakfast TV: