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Glasgow Jazz Festival 2011

Old Fruitmarket, Thursday 30th June

Warren Vaché was playing elsewhere in the City Halls at much the same time, and there’s more similarity between the two musicians than might at first be obvious. They’re both fine trumpeters/cornettists dedicated to keeping an earlier style of jazz alive. In Vaché’s case, it’s the swing/mainstream tradition; in Blanchard’s it’s the post-bop style of bands such as the Max Roach – Clifford Brown quintet or the great Miles Davis quintets of the late 50s and mid 60s. I’d happily go to hear either musician, but I wouldn’t go expecting to hear anything new.

Having got that preamble out of the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance by Terence Blanchard’s Quintet, even if they played little that the Davis-Shorter-Hancock band might not have come up with in the mid-60s. There was some subtle use of electronics from time to time: pianist Fabian Almazan also played a bit of synthesizer, mainly to provide a wash of colour behind the soloists, and Blanchard made effective use of echo on a couple of numbers. Otherwise it was all very much mainstream post-bop, even if they only played one standard, “Autumn Leaves”.

One splendid tradition Blanchard seems to be maintaining is that of the established musician using his band to bring on younger players. Bassist Joshua Crumbly was only 19 – young enough for the band to sometimes have problems getting him in to play gigs in licenced premises in the States, according to Blanchard – but there wasn’t a hint of immaturity in his playing. Despite having a bass guitar on stage with him, he played double bass throughout. Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan and drummer Kendrick Scott were also very good, but for me the most impressive player, more so even than Blanchard himself, was tenor sax player Brice Winston. He’d a distinctive dark smoky tone and his solos held my interest from start to finish. He could play fast flurries of notes when he wanted to, but was obviously aware that there’s far more to playing great jazz than mere virtuosity. When he’s not working with Blanchard, he apparently runs a youth big band in Tucson which is regarded as one of the best in the USA.

The gigs at this year’s festival have all been running to a tight schedule: they’ve started promptly and finished by the time stated on the website. As a result there was no encore, despite the band getting a deservedly enthusiastic response from the audience.