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Ryan Quigley Big Band: A Tribute to Maynard Ferguson

The Ferry, Thursday 15 March 2012

Jazz, it has been said, is the sound of surprise, but this probably wasn’t intended to cover events last Thursday, when the surprise sound during the Ryan Quigley Big Band‘s set was the crash when trombonist Michael Owers passed out and tumbled into the audience. I didn’t get a clear view of what happened, but he seemed to stand up ready to play a solo then keel over and topple forwards off the stage. Fortunately, whatever the problem was, it didn’t seem too serious, and after a few worrying minutes he was up on his feet again, albeit with a cut on his forehead and not in good enough shape to continue with the concert. Proof that it wasn’t anything major came after the interval, when the entire trombone section, including hastily obtained dep John Pickens (at least I think that was his name), appeared sporting sticking plasters on their foreheads.

But what about the music? Well, it was all drawn from the Maynard Ferguson book, and included a mix of Ferguson originals and standards such as “Take the A-Train”, “Round Midnight” and “Birdland”. There was a bit of an overlap of personnel with the SNJO, but enough of a difference for it not simply to be the same band under a different leadership. Allon Beauvoisin was on baritone, Gordon McNeill sat alongside Konrad Wiszniewski in the tenors, Brodie Jarvie split his time between double bass and bass guitar, and a number of players from London were in the trumpet section.

Highlights for me were a high-note trumpet shootout between Ryan Quigley, Simon Gardner and Andy Greenwood, and a long version of “Cruisin’ for a Bluesin'” which featured an inventive alto solo from Paul Towndrow, an unaccompanied section for the five saxophonists which sounded remarkably like Brass Jaw (well, I suppose it wasn’t so remarkable since it involved all three Brass Jaw sax players), and a drum feature for Alyn Cosker. The audiences’s favourite, though, seemed to be “McArthur Park”, and it was that which the band reprised for their encore. Second time around they played very different solos: Gordon McNeill blew a tough bluesy solo the first time round, and an almost parodically smooth one the second time. And I don’t remember Allon Beauvoisin soloing on the first version at all.

Overall a very enjoyable gig, even if one which sticks in the mind for the non-musical drama in the middle of the first set rather than purely for the performance.

Euan Burton – Mike Fletcher Quartet

Slouch, Bath Street, Thursday 15 March 2012

As soon as Ryan Quigley‘s band had finished, it was a quick sprint up the hill from the Clyde to Bath Street to catch a few numbers by the Euan Burton – Mike Fletcher Quartet.

Unfortunately the dreaded last bus syndrome meant I was only able to stay for thirty minutes or so, but I was very impressed by what I heard. They played standards (“It Could Happen to You”, “Pannonica” and “The Very Thought of You” were the ones I heard), but Mike Fletcher was one of those players who seemed able to come up with fresh ideas and make the tunes sound his own. He’d a fairly light tone, and always gave the impression that he was prepared to move a fair way from the source material if the need arose. His overall approach hinted at Lee Konitz or Martin Speake, but overall he was his own man. Definitely a player I’d like to hear again, and he got fine support from Euan Burton, Tom Gibbs and Doug Hough.

Here’s their version of “When You’re Smiling” from their performance in Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar the night before: