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Griffin Bar, 10 November 2011

Most of the material Martin Kershaw and band performed last Thursday was taken from his new album, The Howness. Several of the tunes were inspired by his interest in literature: there were, among others, numbers inspired by Mervyn Peake, David Foster Wallace[1] and Philip Larkin. We also got a piece he’d written for the band Trianglehead, a composition by Paul Harrison (the quartet’s pianist), and Kershaw’s intriguing arrangement of “Steeplechase”, which laid Charlie Parker’s tune over a contemporary funky vamp.

Although it was a good gig, and one which I enjoyed overall, I felt it suffered from a strange sound balance which put Paul Harrison too far down in the mix. His solos came through clear enough, but much of what he played as an accompanist was obscured by the rest of the band. Still, it gave us a chance to hear the rhythm section with great clarity. It’s a comment on the strength in depth of the current Scottish jazz scene that Doug Hough doesn’t get singled out as an excellent drummer: he is, but he’s by no means the only one around. Bassist Euan Burton is gets an excellent full tone from his instrument. He’s not a flashy player, but one you can depend on to come up with an interesting selection of notes and to provide any band he’s in with a solid propulsive bassline.

Martin Kershaw left his soprano and clarinet at home and stuck to alto for the evening. He’s basically a fine post-bop player, but the night’s choice of material gave him the chance to stretch out a bit into slightly more abstract territory. Paul Harrison played some fine solos, but as I’ve mentioned above, the sound balance did him no favours. And the hen party through in the next bar might have been having the time of their lives – or so they informed us in song – but they were a bit distracting at times.

Still, despite these minor quibbles, this was an evening of quality jazz.

One question about the venue, though: do the musicians get a share of the bar takings? If so, I’m afraid I’ve been depriving them of income: the main bar has a better selection of beers and I’ve been tending to buy a pint of Caley 80/- or Deuchars through there and bring it back to the room where the gig is.

[1] A writer fond of footnotes.