A postcard from the Glasgow Jazz Festival 2015.
I’m going to cite the Dyer defence here, in one of my favourite books about music let alone jazz, ‘But Beautiful’, Geoff Dyer insists that jazz performances are almost impossible to write about: I concur. I’m going to skip over the obvious, that plenty of folk seem to manage it just fine, to concentrate on another point – it’s better to photograph the performances. Which is handy, I am after all a photographer, not, a writer. So some words in general and a few snaps it is then.
This 29th Glasgow Jazz festival was wonderful, a stunning mix of quality performances throughout and truly something for all tastes. Indeed the festival clashed with the annual Glasgow Mod Weekender, so there were more Fred Perry shirts than usual at The James Taylor Quartet and there were smiles all round at the open-air Candelriggs stage for a cracking Northern Soul DJ set from Mark Robb.
Dance featured highly this year – we had the Glasgow Lindy Hoppers also at the open-air stage, with swing and Northern Soul classes and dancers at the Rio Club and we had the audience treating us to some Latin at the Old Fruitmarket before and during Marcos Valle (fresh from Glastonbury).
I can’t really stress strongly enough the diversity and quality on show – whether solo piano from John Taylor and Zoe Rahman, Latin inspired grooves of Marcos Valle, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra featuring Eddi Reader or the jazz funk genius of the Hamish Stuart Band who were given a run for their money and then some by the quite brilliant Federation of the Disco Pimp. Also in the jazz funk arena and an act that we will surely be hearing more of was Jarrod Lawson, really enjoyable set with some big vocals going on.
Perhaps considered more avant garde, there was the impressive and massive sound of the Network Trio. Now I have to confess this wasn’t quite my bag but what I love about these performances is the option to tune into a particular performer and, like the whole product or not, I was in awe of the bass playing of Charnett Moffett. Similarly, I didn’t get the electronica of Taylor McFerrin (yes he is related) & Marcus Gilmore (also fresh from Glastonbury), but Gilmore’s drumming was exceptional and McFerrin’s beat-boxing was, well, very McFerrin.
Then you had the contrast of the really big meaty sounds of the likes of The Young Pilgrim’s or Fat Suit to compare and contrast with the trio’s and quartet’s such as Stephen Duffy, Vein, Partisans or (all the way from Oz), The Vampires. And let’s not forget to mention other solo acts like Liane Carroll and piano which really was quite beautiful, and not just because of her cover of River – one of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs. Beyond that if you stumbled late on into the Rio Club you had some stellar mix-n-match outfits on stage for the jam sessions.
This was an exceptional festival; there is so much more than I could include here (did I mention Frank Sinatra Jnr, Gladys Knight or the Family Stone?). I mean it kicked off in fine style with the live to air broadcast of the Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year, in itself worthy of an article.
This years winner was Helena Kay on saxophone – big congratulations to Helena. But the quality of the five finalists was exceptional, indeed the judges reckoned this might have been the highest quality final so far.
What that means is that Scotland is well placed for up and coming jazz musicians, which bodes well for strong representation at what I predict will be an absolute belter of a 30th anniversary festival next year; can’t wait.