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Glasgow Art Club, 7 June 2012

Thursday night’s concert at Glasgow Art Club gave some of the students on the Jazz degree course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland the chance to show what they could do. They were’t all new faces, though, as several of the folk involved have been playing enough in the way of extra-curricular gigs for them simply to seem like some of the younger players on the scene rather than “students”.

First up was a third year ensemble, which was led by bassist Brodie Jarvie and also included sax players Andy Baker (on tenor) and Mikey Butcher (soprano and alto) and drummer John Lowrie. They played a set made up of originals (plus one Donny McCaslin tune), with Jarvie concentrating on providing a solid base, giving Lowrie a bit of space to play some decorative fills, and the two sax players taking it in turns to solo. They were all very competent, with both Baker and Butcher contributing some fine well-constructed solos. The band lacked a bit of presence, though: the overall effect was of music you had to make the effort to get into, rather than music which came out to meet you. Musically, there was nothing to criticise, but I felt they need to find a way to project what they were doing a bit more.

Next up came a first year band of Tim Quicke (trumpet), Utsav Lal (piano, moonlighting from the second year group), David Bowden (bass) and Mikey Fell (alto), with Stephen Henderson and Neil Paton each playing drums for half the set. Their set had plenty of fine individual solos, but to my ears they hadn’t quite mastered the art of producing an integrated band sound yet. Every so often, one or other of them would play something which, while fine in itself, didn’t quite fit in with what else was going on at the time.

Finally, we got the second year group, a quartet of Jay Kilbride on bass, John Woodham on trumpet, Utsav Lal on piano (again) and Chris Whitehouse on drums. Overall, they were the most impressive band of the night, with Lal getting the chance to stretch out far more than he did in the previous band, and Kilbride coming over as the sort of obvious front man and leader that the night’s first band could have done with. If their set had one weak spot, it was with one of the compositions, a multi-section mini-suite which was either too long or not long enough: it either needed more time to develop all the sections, or to lose one or more of them and concentrate on exploring the remainder in more depth.

Looking at the bands, it struck me that there was a range of ages in some of them: it looked as if several of the musicians had spent a few years doing something previously, rather than going to the RCS straight from school. This was confirmed when Jay Kilbride said that his group was missing their tenor player because he was away celebrating his 21st.

On the evidence of this concert, there’s absolutely no need to worry about a lack of good young players coming through. What is possibly more problematic is whether there will be enough in the way of paying gigs to sustain them once they graduate.

The Herald has a review of the gig by Keith Bruce.