Folk, jazz etc.: Euan Burton’s new CD ‘Occurrences’

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It may be three months to go until Burns night, but that line about the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gangin’ aft agley springs to mind when considering the title of double-bassist Euan Burton’s newly released third album. Too Much Love, it seems, is inspired by the theory that many of the things that go wrong in life do so as a result of “people having misplaced love or having so much love that they don’t know how to deal with it and channel it properly”.

As opposed to his last album, the well-received Occurrences, which he recorded with a quintet, Too Much Love sees Burton in quartet format with three compadres from the Glasgow jazz scene – saxophonist Adam Jackson, drummer Alyn Cosker and pianist Tom Gibbs. The resulting clutch of his compositions combines an inventive energy with some lyrical playing, as in Jackson’s sax singing through the wistful 
ballad All that is Left, the nicely 
cyclical melody of the title track, or the longest number, Rhapsody, which progresses from pianist Gibbs’s impressive opening cadenza through jubilant explosions and meditative murmurings.

“I’ve always been interested in making an album as an album, and not just a random collection of tunes,” he says. “All these pieces were written, in the order they appear on the album, before we went into the studio, although I’m not as obsessed with playing them in the same order at gigs as I used to be.”

Writing for the quartet, he adds, left things more open in terms of improvisation. “But the thing I was really looking to do was to draw the listener in. I think that in a lot of jazz, it’s very easy to lose sight of the listener, and I don’t think you need to dumb down what you’re doing to bring people in.”

He was also writing for auld acquaintances, with whom he’s played for many years – he’s known Jackson, for instance, since school in East Kilbride, although he’d 
never played with all three at once until now. He formed the band initially to fulfil a few bookings in Poland early last year. “I knew how good they were, but had no idea how it would gel. After the four gigs of the tour I was so excited that the day after we got back I phoned up and booked the studio.”

Still going under the “Euan Burton and Occurrences” moniker, the quartet heads south next week for a London Jazz Festival gig in the Albert Hall’s Verdi café (with guest trumpeter Ryan Quigley), in between a short Scottish tour taking in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

While Burton made his name as a jazz bassist to be reckoned with, his discography suggests a markedly eclectic genre span, from Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham to Beth Nielson Chapman and Texas. When we spoke he was about to embark on gigs with Salt House, the finely textured Scots contemporary folk quartet in which he plays alongside traditional singer Siobhan Miller, fiddler Lauren MacColl and singer-guitarist Ewan MacPherson.“I guess I consider myself a bassist with a jazz background, first and foremost. It’s what I studied and it’s the way I’ve been writing. But certainly over the few years I’ve been involved so much with other kinds of music. I wouldn’t have the audacity to call myself a folk bass player, but I’m interested in the future to try and get into... I don’t really like the term ‘fusion’, but certainly use influences from other places.”

Too Much Love, he adds, to an extent reflects that folk experience, in its strongly melodic nature. “Singable melodies are what I tend to gravitate towards,” he says. “If a melody is strong enough, it can let you take liberties in other aspects of the music to challenge the listener.”

Euan Burton and Occurrences play the Blue Lamp, Aberdeen on 13 November; the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, on 19 November; and Glasgow Art Club on 20 November. Too Much Love is available on Whirlwind Recordings See www.euanburton.com