New Focus Quartet, The Tolbooth, 26 May 2017

After playing in a barn on the Isle of Skye New Focus came to Stirling’s historic Tolbooth to play tunes from their latest CD New Focus On Song. Billed as “one of the most appealing, most beautifully realised projects to emerge on the UK jazz scene in recent years”, the Tolbooth’s main auditorium was set up cabaret style and we were treated to an intimate, acoustic set by the band.

The band opened with three melodic tracks from On Song;  Air in D Minor, Green Park and Sophia’s Song.  Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson then introduced the theme of family inspiration into the evening.  Next we heard Leonard’s Lament (a tribute to Leonard Cohen) and Dziadzio (Grandfather) which was inspired by Konrad’s Polish family heritage.  During this tune we heard a skillful solo from Andrew Robb on double bass. Both of these tracks are from their first CD the self-titled New Focus. The final tune of the first half was Corea Change. We heard and saw some amazing brushwork by Alyn Cosker in a short drum solo.

The second half opened with Flora followed by Fourths Ostinato, a jazzier number which is great to hear performed live.  Then to mark the occasion of the hottest day of the year we enjoyed a sweet, laid back, quiet version of Lovely Day by Bill Withers. The filmic sounding tune Braeside also from New Focus On Song lead onto the joyful, upbeat tune Parson’s Green. During Parson’s Green Alyn Cosker played one of his tremendous solos where he combines precise, engaged and defined playing with a huge amount of energy that never fails to astound the audience. (Yes, there was wooping and whistling!)  It is always a treat to see Cosker play up close and personal, you can actually see all the stick changing and the tiny nuances he fits in between larger beats.

New Focus should be seen live. Much of the work on their CDs is recorded with strings for a bigger more complex sound but seeing the musicians play live really lets you understand the essence of their music, enjoy its well-tuned richness and appreciate the skillful playing of the musicians.  The musicians work well together and have cultivated their own sound, they speak to the audience and each other which is something that I love. Euan explained during the gig that their second CD was titled New Focus: On Song because they were exploring the type of songwriting that makes people happy. Judging by the round of applause and the smiles on faces at the end of this gig that idea was definitely well translated into the music we heard.

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New Focus (Duo) are playing a free lunchtime concert this Friday, June 2nd, from 13:00-14:00 at Glasgow University.

The New Focus Quartet:  Konrad Wiszniewski – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Euan Stevenson – Piano,  Andrew Robb – Double Bass,  Alyn Cosker  – Drums and Percussion

 

 

The SNJO play Gil Evans / Miles Davis. Edinburgh, April 2017.

On the Beat

Tonight I saw the SNJO play two classic Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaborations, Sketches of Spain and Porgy & Bess. Two of the most famous pieces of jazz ever recorded, so familiar that they’re taken for granted. But rarely heard live: the last time I heard them live must have been when SNJO played the same programme about twenty years ago.

Tonight’s gig was superb. Such a wonderful sound. I sat with a broad smile through most of it, just pleased to be able to hear it again.

In Sketches of Spain, the lead trumpet was taken by Laura Jurd, who filled the role perfectly. Whilst keep close to Evans’ classic arrangement, three was still plenty of space for Jurd to improvise. I had forgotten how much of Sketches was just trumpet, bass and drums – and Calum Gourlay and Alyn Cosker made a great rhythm section behind Jurd. (No saxes…

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Glasgow Jazz Fest Top Picks!

The Glasgow Jazz Festival has just released its vast and varied programme for the festivities in June.   The festival was founded in 1987 and has hosted many of music’s greatest performers. Over the past few years the programming has been great and there is something for everyone during the event.

There is always a buzz around the city’s venues when the festival is on.  If you can get there I would highly recommend it.  Tickets are on sale from today.  These are my top picks for the fest:

The Neil Cowley Trio, Thursday 22 June Piano, drums and bass. Contemporary, melodic, and energetic.

The Greg Foat Group, Thursday 22 June I love a Hammond organ! This jazz keyboard player and his band will be joined by Clark Tracey (drums), Phil Achille (bass) and Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor saxophone). The live music will be augmented by DJs Euan Fryer (Athens Of The North) and Andrew Divine (The Funk Room / Jazzman), who’ll be spinning who will be spinning some tunes, aimed squarely at the dancefloor.

Sugarwork, Thursday 22 June I have fancied seeing this band for a while.  I met Phil Bancroft last summer but haven’t heard him play live yet, only on CD.  Will contain improvisation!

Michael Janisch, Thursday 22 June  This is my top pick and if I can get to only one thing I hope it is this. This musician always seems to be doing something interesting with music and has many strings to his bow.

If you like drumming there are a few great events.  I like these two; Tony Allen Friday 23 June and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra on Saturday 24.

Big Band Festival Saturday 24 June. Support the big bands, great tunes and breeding grounds for so much more. A nice daytime number.

Calum Gourlay Sunday 25 June A project celebrating Thelonious Monk. Having heard Calum play quite a few times mainly in big bands  I’d like to see him play in a smaller venue and reckon this will be good. I like his playing, its warm and accomplished.

I would love to hear one of Rebecca Vasmant‘s DJ sets. She has a monthly slot on Radio Scotland on The Jazz House and I always enjoy what she plays. She often plays really great Latin tunes and always creates a really great vibe to dance to (June 22, June 24).

All information on the festival and how to buy tickets can be found here.

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All That Jazz

Roaringwater Journal

The Ballydehob Jazz Festival gets better every year! There was a marvellous program this year – eclectic and varied, and our little village was buzzing with locals and out-of-towners.

The great thing about a festival like this is that there’s something for everyone. The Big Acts take place in the “Festival Hall” (AKA Community Hall) where there’s big band sounds and dancing till the wee hours. There are workshops for kids (this year’s line-up featured archery tag and circus skills) and a Sunday Market with a continuous bandstand of acts.

The East Coast Jazz Band are effortlessly cool

But a lot of the action takes place in the intimate venues. The pubs and restaurants all host entertainers so you can have lunch and dinner accompanied by soulful crooners, or crowd into one of the pubs to listen to a piano duo or a swing band or a funk quartet…

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