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13 January 2021Young saxophonist Matt Carmichael's single captures river in spate

Matt Carmichael, the award-winning young Glasgow-based saxophonist, releases the first single from his debut album this Friday ahead of two performances during the new-look, virtual Celtic Connections.

 

Twenty-one-year-old Carmichael, who reached the final of the televised BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 in November, has chosen his composition Spey as the taster from Where Will the River Flow, which comes out on March 12.

 

Currently in his final year on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course, Carmichael financed the album partly from the prize money he received as the winner of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, which encourages young musicians to develop their careers.

 

The judges for both the Whittingham and the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 competitions praised his musicianship and noted that, “You can really feel the Scottish landscape in his playing and compositions.”

 

“It was a real honour to win the Peter Whittingham Awards and amazing to appear on BBC Four in the BBC Young Jazz Musician final,” says Carmichael. “The other finalists were all fantastic and to play with the ‘house band’ – who are top, top musicians – was an amazing experience.”

 

Carmichael took up the saxophone at the age of eleven and made rapid progress with his teacher, Allon Beauvoisin, a baritone saxophone specialist who has worked with the horn quartet Brass Jazz and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

 

In 2017, Carmichael was accepted onto the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course. His course leader, internationally respected saxophonist Tommy Smith promptly enrolled Carmichael into his acclaimed Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra. Smith, who toured the world with jazz star Gary Burton as an eighteen-year-old has since gone on record as saying that Carmichael “is better than I was at his age.”

 

Where Will the River Flow features Carmichael’s regular quartet with the multi-award-winning pianist Fergus McCreadie, bassist Ali Watson and drummer Tom Potter. As well as Spey, the album also includes two other tracks – Firth (written for the Moray Firth) and Cononbridge (dedicated to his home village) - which were inspired by the area where Carmichael, who went to school in Lenzie, spent his early years.

 

“Although I don’t live in Speyside now, I still feel a real connection to it,” he says. “I’m influenced by traditional Scottish music as well as jazz and with Spey, I wanted to convey the thrill of being close to a really fast-flowing river with a kind of energetic jazz reel. It’s certainly quite exciting to play.”

 

Carmichael’s interest in traditional music will be apparent as he takes part in two of Celtic Connections’ New Voices concerts, with singer Josie Duncan on January 17 and with former BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, fiddler Charlie Stewart on January 24.

 

“I was lucky enough to get to play a duo concert with Fergus McCreadie at last year’s Celtic Connections, after we won a Danny award on the open stage the year before,” he says. “It’s a brilliant festival and just to be a small part of such a massive event feels really good.”

 

Matt Carmichael (photo by Chun-Wei Kang)

09 January 2021Harper Karen Marshalsay hosts harp hang for Burns Night

One of Scotland’s leading harpers, Karen Marshalsay celebrates Robert Burns’ birthday with an online “harp hang” from her kitchen on Saturday, January 23 from 7pm.

 

Karen is a master of all three Scottish harps – the warm sounding gut harp,  the clear ringing wire-strung clarsach and the baroque bray harp with its buzzing sitar-like effect. She released her first album, The Road to Kennacraig, in 2019 to enthusiastic press responses including a four star review from The Scotsman.

 

With a particular interest in playing pipe music on the harp, Karen has worked with Allan MacDonald, of the famous Glenuig piping brothers, featuring in his acclaimed pibroch concerts, including the Edinburgh International Festival’s Herald Angel Award-winning From Battle Lines to Bar Lines series in 2004. She also featured in the National Piping Centre’s Ceòl na Piòba concert in 2013 and has worked with African, Paraguayan and Indian musicians on multi-cultural projects including Yatra, which premiered at the Edinburgh Mela in 2008.  More recently she guested with the Russian String Orchestra, playing her own compositions, during the Edinburgh Festival 2018.

 

The Road to Kennacraig was produced at Temple Studios by Robin Morton, a founder member of internationally regarded folk band Boys of the Lough and one of traditional music’s top producers whose credits also include Dick Gaughan’s classic Handful of Earth, Alison Kinnaird’s seminal The Harp Key and albums of Gaelic singing by Flora MacNeil and Christine Primrose.

 

As well as appearing in solo concerts, Karen is a member of Irish folk music legend, flute and whistle master and singer Cathal McConnell’s trio. She has also produced new works for Celtic Connections’ New Voices series, Hands up for Trad’s Distil showcase concerts, and Drake Music Scotland, and she was Composer in Residence with Harps North West in 2016.

 

Tickets for the harp hang, priced £5, are available through paypal.me/karenmarshalsay by adding email address to received the link. 

 

Karen Marshalsay

 

06 January 2021Fife youth orchestra goes international with Zoom sessions

Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra is inviting young musicians from all over the world to join its weekly Thursday sessions via Zoom.

 

Musicians aged from 8 to 19 can take part in the sessions, which run from 7pm to 8pm UK time and cost £3.50 per session, without fear due to the orchestra’s enthusiastic director, Richard Michael’s Mistakes Are Cool mantra.

 

Richard Michael, whose involvement with FYJO dates back to the 1970s, has played a significant part in the careers of many musicians who are now making an impression on the jazz scene in the UK and further afield. Award-winning saxophonist Helena Kay, double bassist Calum Gourlay, who now works with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Tommy Smith’s quartet, and pianist Fergus McCreadie, who releases the follow-up to his double award-winning debut album, Turas, on Edition Records on January 29 are all FYJO alumni.

 

“When the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to our conventional rehearsals, we thought we might have to put FYJO on hold,” says Michael. “But due to Zoom we have been able to expand our membership and welcome members from across the UK and even as far away as Romania. It’s great to be able to encourage young musicians to improvise and take risks without fear of making mistakes because, as I’ve always said, mistakes are cool and can lead to unexpected and fruitful creative ideas.”

 

Anyone interested in taking part in the Thursday sessions can get more information from secretary@fyjo.org.uk

 

Richard Michael

26 December 2020Rare recordings released as Memorial to bass virtuoso Ron Mathewson

Jazz in Britain has released Memorial, a seven-track tribute to Ron Mathewson, the double bass virtuoso who died on December 3, aged seventy-six.

 

Taken from Ron’s personal archive, the tracks feature the Shetland-born musician who became revered across the jazz world in sessions with leading figures of the British jazz scene including saxophonist Trevor Watts’ trailblazing Amalgam, Latin-American fusion outfit Paz, pianist Gordon Beck’s Gyroscope and the Tony Coe-Kenny Wheeler team, Coe, Wheeler & Co.

 

The tracks feature Ron on both double bass and bass guitar and there’s a solo double bass feature, Black Forest that calls to mind the brilliantly adventurous playing and amazing tone production that gathered Ron admirers including Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, with whom Ron worked regularly for some fifteen years.

 

Jazz in Britain has been established to ensure that music from the 1950s through to the 1970s is not lost and that musicians or their families receive recompense, recognition and appreciation.   

 

Memorial is available through Bandcamp.

 

Ron Mathewson (photo by Brian O'Connor)

26 November 2020Top singer Tina May sings the Duncan Lamont songbook on new disc

Leading singer Tina May releases 52nd Street (and other tales) on 33 Records on Friday, December 4th.
 

Featuring a collection of songs written by Scottish musician and composer Duncan Lamont, the album is full of the character and wit that Lamont, who died in July 2019, brought to his work as an astute observer of places and people.

 

Originally a trumpet player, Lamont left his hometown, Greenock for London in the 1950s, and like many other musicians of the time, he worked his passage on transatlantic liners, by now playing saxophone in the ships’ orchestras so that he could experience the jazz scene in New York while on shore leave.

 

He not only learned from the musicians he heard on these trips, going on to play with Frank Sinatra,  Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Count Basie and Sir Paul McCartney among other top line stars, he also got ideas for songs.

 

Natalie Cole recorded A Great Day in Harlem on her Ask A Woman Who Knows album. Dame Cleo Laine sang Not You Again at Carnegie Hall and recorded many other Lamont compositions. And the legendary Hollywood dancer-actor-singer Fred Astaire personally endorsed the song Duncan wrote for and about him. Duncan wrote a song every day and left a huge portfolio of material from which Tina May has chosen fourteen for the album, which she produced with Duncan’s sons, Ross and Duncan Jnr.

 

“Every time I sing a jazz standard like Midnight Sun or More Than You Know, I think of Duncan because these songs were of the quality that he aimed for in his own writing,” says Tina May. “And he very often succeeded because he was such a perfectionist. There’s a least one song on the album that had two different sets of lyrics because Duncan kept tinkering and improving on what he’d written.”

 

The album features May with the house trio from Ronnie Scott’s - pianist James Pearson, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Chris Higginbottom – with valuable contributions from trombonist Mark Nightingale, percussionist Phil Hopkins and accordionist Karen Street.

 

The songs include Lamont’s wry look at the march of big-time developers on 52nd Street itself, a tribute to the great Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim and English Folk Song, whose lyrics were written by Spike Milligan.

 

Tina May

24 November 2020Dutch drummer's dreams come true with solo album

Dutch drummer-percussionist Joost Lijbaart realises a life-long ambition with the release of his first solo album, Free, on November 30th.

 

Known internationally for his work with saxophonist Yuri Honing’s trio and quartet over the past twenty-five years, and more recently for leading the ambient improvising voice-guitar-percussion trio Under the Surface, Lijbaart devoted six months during lockdown in Amsterdam to writing and recording the album.

 

“I love working with Yuri’s group and with Sanne [Rambags - singer] and Bram [Stadhouders – guitarist] in Under the Surface,” he says. “But for a long, long time I’ve wondered what it would be like to create something where I play all the instruments myself. So, I gathered lots of drums, tuned percussion, harmonium, vibraphone and much more, and got to work.”

 

All the compositions on the album are Lijbaart’s own, some being quite short but others, including the opening Strangers from the Sky, bordering on the comparatively epic. It’s very atmospheric in style and very considered but there are also passages where Lijbaart opens up his kit and rocks with considerable effervescence.

 

“The whole experience became what I’d describe as a journey inside,” he says. “Composing and recording the album gave me deeper insights about myself as a drummer but also as a man and as a human being. And of course, I was confronted with my own influences; classical percussion, my hero drummers, music from around the world, which also feeds into Under the Surface, and more. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”

 

Joost Lijbaart

27 October 2020Pianist Brian Kellock spearheads new label launch

Award-winning Scottish pianist Brian Kellock spearheads the UK launch on 30th October of New Zealand-based Thick Records, with two of the label’s three initial releases featuring the Edinburgh-born, Glasgow-based Kellock’s talents.

 

The launch is built around Think About It! - the long overdue follow-up to Kellock and his trio’s 2002 BBC Jazz Award-winning album, Live at Henry’s – and includes two albums by label owner and drummer, John Rae.

 

Rae’s trio, with Kellock and Kiwi bassist Patrick Bleakley, features on Where the Wild Clematis Grow, whose six tracks include three Rae originals and a highly individual take on Artie Shaw’s Nightmare. Rae, who moved to Wellington in the late noughties, also celebrates his Scottish roots on Uncouth and Without Form, with a new band formed in the cultural slipstream of his popular and critically acclaimed Celtic Feet.

 

Kellock has earned an international reputation for his work with, among other notable names, saxophonists Herb Geller, Joe Temperley and Scott Hamilton, trumpeters Warren Vache and Red Rodney, singer Sheila Jordan and Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison.

 

His long-time partnership with fellow Scot, saxophonist Tommy Smith has produced three duo albums and work with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra that includes Rhapsody in Blue Live, for which Smith rearranged the Gershwin classic especially for Kellock as the featured soloist, and In the Spirit of Duke, with Kellock taking the Ellington role.

 

The piano-bass-drums format, and particularly his trio with Rae on drums and Kenny Ellis on bass, has a special place in Kellock’s affections, however.

 

“I’ve known John since around 1982 or 1983 and we got on really well from the start, both on- and off-stage” says Kellock. “We’ve played in each other’s bands and worked together in other people’s bands and have always had a good musical understanding.”

 

With bassist Ellis, Kellock and Rae formed the rhythm section of the John Rae Collective, a group that featured trumpeter Colin Steele, saxophonist Phil Bancroft and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie and that, along with their contemporary, Tommy Smith, represented a resurgence in Scottish jazz during the mid to late 1980s.

 

For John Rae, Kellock is the ideal musician to lead his label’s launch.

 

“Brian’s such an extraordinary musician and yet, after all this time, he’s still an artist deserving wider recognition,” he says. “It’s no wonder that people like Herb Geller or Sheila Jordan have made him their accompanist of choice. But for me, what makes him so special to work with, apart from his outrageous virtuosity and fantastic knowledge of the jazz repertoire, is that I always know he’ll be committed to the concept, regardless of the consequences.”

 

The Thick Records releases are all available to download-only. Rae thought long and hard about the “to CD or not to CD” question and arrived at the decision to go digital when he realised that he had no CD slot anywhere – neither in his house nor in his car or computer – and found that a lot of people are in the same situation.

 

“I have boxes and boxes of CDs in my garage that I don’t play but I’ve probably listened to the music on most of them through downloading or streaming,” he says. “It boils down to the music, not whatever the music’s stored on, being what’s important and I’m happy that the standard of the music we’re making available is high.” 

 

BK3 - John Rae, Brian Kellock, Kenny Ellis (photo by Louis DeCarlo)

 

 

27 October 2020Musician Steve Hamilton reveals what lies Between the Lines

Pianist and keyboards player Steve Hamilton has used the enforced inactivity of lockdown to record his first solo album, Between the Lines, with friends including guitar virtuoso, Martin Taylor MBE dropping by to guest on selected tracks.

 

The album’s release coincides with a period of recuperation for Hamilton following surgery to remove his right kidney after a tumour was found during a CT scan for another problem that has since been cleared up.

 

“I went into hospital on September 25th and had the kidney removed along with the tumour and hopefully any traces of it from my body,” says the musician who studied at Berklee School of Music and toured the world before returning to live in Stirling. “It seems we found it early enough to hope for a clear outcome moving forward.”

 

As the Covid-19 pandemic began to take its effect on live music, Hamilton had international tours with his regular employer, drumming legend Billy Cobham, as well as all his other bookings, cancelled. Having appeared on more than forty recordings by luminaries including drummer Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, saxophonists Peter King and Tommy Smith and guitarist Tony Remy, he felt this was an ideal opportunity to release an album of his own.

 

A hugely experienced musician whose CV also includes work with jazz legends Ray Charles, Freddie Hubbard and Pee Wee Ellis, Hamilton grew up in a musical family. His father, Laurie was a professional guitarist and was always on hand to share advice and musical discoveries.

 

Between the Lines is dedicated to Laurie, who died in 2013, and features Martin Taylor MBE and saxophonist Paul Booth, whose quartet Hamilton plays in. Guitarists Don Paterson and Davie Dunsmuir, Hamilton’s colleague from the Billy Cobham Band, also made stellar contributions. 

 

Most of the material was written, often on the spot, by Hamilton alone or with his guests. Opening track Awakening explores the textures and tones available with the latest keyboard technology. The ballad Ealasaid, dedicated to Martin Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth, was created spontaneously by Hamilton and Taylor. For the powerful, atmospheric In a Flash of Light, Hamilton invited Davie Dunsmuir to add electric guitar to his keyboard and rhythm track, and Paul Booth’s tenor saxophone brought out the yearning quality of From the Embers.

 

Long-time friend Don Paterson, who is better known as one the UK’s leading poets, contributed his trademark filigree guitar picking to Look Up. Paterson’s evocative composition Nijinsky, which first appeared during his time with Celtic-jazz group Lammas in the 1990s, has always fascinated Hamilton and inspires a searching improvisation here. Paterson was also the source of the arrangement of Robert Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss which closes the album with a mood of poignancy.

 

“I really enjoyed the process of making the album,” Hamilton says. “I didn’t set out with any particular aim or sound in mind. Of course, I didn’t expect to be undergoing life-saving surgery once the recording was finished but I’m beginning to do some exercise, like slow walking, and I’m looking forward to getting back into some kind of musical action again. I’m just so grateful to my NHS consultant and the whole team who looked after me. They were all amazing.” 

Steve Hamilton

 

You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign that’s been set up to help Steve Hamilton here

Between the Lines is available on Bandcamp 

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