Classical review: Mr McFall’s Chamber: Freak Out, Glasgow

Mr McFall's Chamber

Mr McFall's Chamber

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It was standing room only for the opening Glasgow leg of Mr McFall’s Chamber’s Freak Out Tour. That is, there were no seats in the bijou backroom bar of the south side Glad Cafe, where floor space was at a premium.

Mr McFall’s Chamber: Freak Out - Glad Cafe, Glasgow

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But that seemed just right for a touch of funky, steamy nostalgia from the lugubrious dynamism of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, kindred spirits whose music and minds were the focus of a short, sharp couple of sets that incorporated new works by Martin Kershaw and Paul Harrison, as well as the sultry decadence of John Adams’ Habanera from his quartet John’s Book of Alleged Dances.

It was a vintage McFall’s show – keyboard, rhythm and bass underpinning a steely kernel of amplified string quartet, frontline percussion and, to quote main man Robert McFall, the unlikely “jazz horn” of virtuoso French hornist Alec Frank-Gemmill. All of which gave vital spontaneity to the frenzied unison jabs of Zappa’s Echidna’s Arf and G spot 
Tornado, and the riot of eccentricity that lit up Beefheart’s Suction Prints

Harrison’s The Dust Blows Forward, featuring the recorded voice of Beefheart, emerged as a catching combination of surreal and pastoral jazz. Kershaw’s Far Vistas played more on insatiable energy, capped by a climactic canonic cadenza.

Missing sadly from the Glasgow performance was George Crumb’s Idyll for the Misbegotten, due to lack of space in the venue. Catch it tonight, though, in Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms, or tomorrow in Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre.

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