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Glasgow Art Club, Thursday 3rd May 2012

A gig of two halves.

Before the interval, what we got was very competent but slightly formulaic. On every number, there was the theme statement, a Bobby Wishart saxophone solo, a David Newton piano solo, a Gino Ciancio keyboard solo then a second briefer sax solo leading into the restatement of the tune.

All that changed in the second half. Ciancio took far fewer solos, mainly restricting himself to adding background colouring behind the rest of the group, and Wishart and Newton stretched out much more, with a greater degree of interplay between them and a greater sense of risk-taking in the improvisations.

Most of the set list was made up of jazz standards, although there were a couple of surprises: Burt Bacharach’s “A House is not a Home”, and the only jazz version I’ve ever heard of “Arthur’s Theme” (the one that many folk, myself included, expect to be called “Caught between the Moon and New York City”). The band quite often segued two tunes together, so that what started off as, say, “What is this Thing Called Love” miraculously transformed itself into “Well You Needn’t” by the end. One of the highlights of the evening was a version of “My Funny Valentine” which started with Wishart breaking the melody up into a series of phrases, building his solo on those phrases, then handing over to David Newton for a piano solo which ended up very far indeed from the original tune.

It must be several years since I last heard Bobby Wishart, and he remains an excellent player, with lovely breathy Ben Webster-like tone on ballads. He played tenor for most of the evening, with a single outing for his soprano and flute. I sometimes worry when I go to hear one of the older generation of local musicians that they’ll turn out to have been outclassed by the crop of excellent young players who have come through in recent years. It’s always reassuring to discover that the reason you remember a performer being very good is simply that (s)he is very good.

David Newton was as good as ever, subtle, swinging, and prepared to take the material to unexpected places without ever stopping making perfect musical sense. Gino Ciancio on keyboards, his brother Sandro on drums and bassist Andy Sharkey all put in good solid performances, with Gino adding attractive quasi-orchestral backings on some pieces, but I hope they won’t be offended if I say that this concert was at its best when they stuck to a background role and gave Newton and Wishart plenty of space to stretch out in.

There wasn’t much advance publicity for this gig that I was aware of, so it was good to see a fairly large audience there.