Gig review: Stan Tracey Quartet, Glasgow

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Despite the name on the proverbial marquee, on Sunday night, there was sadly no sign of Ronnie Scott’s former house pianist and composer of the jazz classic LP Under Milk Wood Stan Tracey.

Stan Tracey Quartet - Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

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It was announced earlier in the day that the 86-year-old’s resilience had failed him, and that he would have to miss the show through illness. In his place at the piano stool sat Paul Harrison, a Scotland-based musician and composer, who had been hand-picked by Tracey to deputise.

For the sizeable audience that chose not to exchange their tickets and instead show faith in Tracey’s group, it shouldn’t have been an unsatisfying way to spend the final evening of the Glasgow Jazz Festival.

In Tracey’s absence, and with his understudy’s playing perhaps not being as prominently featured as his might have been, the star of the show was Scots tenor saxophonist and Under Milk Wood collaborator Bobby Wellins, an enigmatic figure who prowled the fringes of the stage and stepped up to the mic in just the right places with some bright and upbeat playing. Alongside him, Tracey’s son, Clark, drummed with loose, graceful charisma; and bassist Andrew Cleyndert revelled in some soft, murmuring solos that set a sense of mellow calm against the carefree exuberance of the full quartet’s playing.

After nearly an hour and a half, the show ended somewhat abruptly. “Nice of you to come,” murmured Wellins in gruff Glaswegian tones after a round of introductions, “have fun.” Double-taking at his wrist for comic effect, young Tracey countered “I thought he said half one!” Yet it was probably best that they savoured a fine show and recharged their batteries for this month’s return appearance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.