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I’m afraid I’m still struggling with a backlog of reviews. But here’s another couple.

Peter Johnstone Organ Quartet

Glasgow Art Club, Thursday 8th November

Peter Johnstone won this year’s Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, but in this band – as its name suggests – was playing organ. The instrumentation (organ, guitar, sax and drums) hinted at funky bluesy Jimmy Smith or Shirley Scott style music, but what was delivered was a lot more varied than that. The set, which was made up entirely of originals apart from the opening Gary Versace tune, if I remember correctly, contained some of that sort of rhythm and blues groove, but a lot more contemporary New York style postbop and European ECM-like sounds.

I last came across guitarist Davie Dunsmuir playing rather John Scofield like jazz-rock guitar in one of Alyn Cosker’s bands, but here he was playing a much less raucous, less distorted style, rather similar to a lot of Mark McKnight’s work. Adam Jackson’s alto saxophone seemed to get a little less solo space than the other two melody instruments, but there was nothing to criticise in what he did play. Similarly, John Lowrie’s drumming was always interesting and kept things moving along nicely while remaining mainly in the background.

There’s a slight sense that this group is still work in progress – occasionally the variety of approaches didn’t quite gel – but overall this was an enjoyable concert by an outfit it would be patronising to describe as “a very good young band”. They’re a very good band full stop.

Matyas Gayer Trio

Glasgow Art Club, Thursday 1st November

The piano trio is currently a very popular format, but oddly enough this was the first one I’ve seen for a while.

Their approach was fairly conservative. They mainly played material from the Great American Songbook or fairly well-known standards, with pianist Matyas Gayer very much taking the lead role and the other two band members, bassist Norbert Farkas and drummer Marton Juhasz, content to work as accompanists. Having said that, many of the pieces – indeed slightly too many for my taste – included a bass solo, but whenever Gayer was playing, there was no doubt that it was soloist plus rhythm section rather than a trio of equals.

Gayer’s technique was dazzling, ranging from 19th century romanticism to more percussive contemporary playing (given his nationality you could easily say from Liszt to Bartok). However, his imagination didn’t always match up to it. When he was firing on all cylinders, there was some really inventive playing, for instance in the opening of one of the Monk tunes he played, where he alternated between stabbing staccato phrases and flowing legato ones, but at other times it was how he was playing that impressed, not what he was playing. Still, he’s only 20, so he’s plenty of time to mature. I suspect we’ll hear a lot more of him, particularly if he can raise his entire set up to the standards of the best of it.

Rob Adams reviewed this concert for The Herald.

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