Glasgow Jazz Festival reviews: Dinosaur | Nigel Clark & Tom MacNiven | Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet

Dinosaur
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Dinosaur, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow ***

Dinosaur have stomped their way on to the Glasgow Jazz Festival bill by accidental means, simply by booking their own gig in the city at the same time. But any festival would be pleased to host an appearance by this intriguing electro-acoustic outfit led by award-winning trumpeter/composer Laura Jurd.

bobby wellins

bobby wellins

The group were Mercury Prize nominated for their debut album, Together. As One. But that was so last year. The band have already moved on to its follow-up, Wonder Trail, which is heavy on Elliot Galvin’s retro synthesizer sound, which lurched from Wendy Carlos-like spacey reverberations to deliberately disruptive interruptions to the lithe groove which ran through their set even during the freer interludes, courtesy of Glaswegian drummer Corrie Dick.

Conor Chaplin supplied intermittently funky basslines but the main attraction was Jurd’s trumpet lead which, frustratingly at times, had to compete with her own stabs of keyboard witchery and even sparing use of soft vocal incantations.

For those first attracted to this group by her magnetic playing, there was the consolation of warmer, more fluid interludes, such as Shine Your Light, suffused with Afro jazz flavours drifting around the room.

However, eclecticism, fusion and even restlessness was the order of the gig as the group swiftly jumped on to a deconstructed New Orleans marching band number spliced with heavy rock interludes and the bass noodle and prog rock keyboards of one Frankensteinian composition which sounded like a number of different pieces stitched together.

Fiona Shepherd

Nigel Clark & Tom MacNiven Celebrate Bobby Wellins, Drygate, Glasgow ****

Bobby Wellins, the Scots saxophonist who died two years ago, was not only one of the most distinctive sounds in UK jazz but an influential figure for many younger musicians, as potently demonstrated in this tribute, which saw trumpeter Tom MacNiven revisit his Guess What? album, on which Wellins, below, played.

He had assembled some of his Scottish National Orchestra colleagues, notably tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski who fulfilled with panache the unenviable task of taking Wellins’s role in the original quintet. The SNJO’s Calum Gourlay was bassist, alongside pianist Brian Kellock – who also played on the original – and drummer Doug Hough.

Opening the night, guitarist Nigel Clark recalled the encouragement Wellins gave him at a crucial point in his career, and gave a masterly solo set, despite the intrusive racket from world cup watchers in the adjoining bar. Eschewing any set list, he ranged eclectically and elegantly from Carlos Santana numbers to Joe Pass’s flamenco-informed tribute, Paco De Lucia.

MacNiven and company proved anything but a scratch band, trumpet and sax meshing and alternating fluidly, while Jobim’s Favella saw MacNiven and Wiszniewski deliver full-bodied solos over the rollicking bossa rhythm, with the characteristically exuberant Kellock and Gourlay playing deftly off each other.

Wiszniewski stepped down for the last two numbers, replaced by Helena Kay, who had elicited much enthusiasm from Wellins when she won the 2015 Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year award, her soloing evidence of a continuing cycle of inspiration.

Jim Gilchrist

Alina Bzhezhinska Quartet, City Halls Recital Room, Glasgow ****

If the musical legacy and reputation of Alice Coltrane, harpist, composer and mystic, has suffered in the monumental shadow of her saxophonist husband John, it is now receiving some long overdue recognition, not least due to fellow harpist Alina Bzhezhinska. Last year, which marked the tenth anniversary of Alice’s passing and the 50th anniversary of John’s, the London-based Polish-Ukrainian harpist formed a powerful quartet performing music by both Coltranes and earlier this year released a widely acclaimed album, Inspiration, which they reprised potently in this Glasgow Jazz Festival recital.

The quartet, with Tony Kofi on soprano and tenor saxophones, Larry Bartley on double bass and Joel Prime on drums, generated a strikingly textured sound, the pedal harp providing a glittering framework as well as tidal pulses and bright melodic excursions.

Bzhezhinska’s opening solo prelude gave way to imperious calling from soprano sax over hissing cymbals in Alice’s Blue Nile while Kofi switched to the beefier tenor instrument for the insistently staccato riffing of Los Caballos and there was a plaintive reediness to his soprano playing in Bzhezhinska’s eastern-European folk-inspired Lemky.

For sheer eloquence, however, the final two numbers took some beating: John Coltrane’s After the Rain was charged with sweet melancholy with lingering tenor sax, murmuring bass and glistening harmonics, while stentorian bass deliberations launched a key composition, Alice’s Journey in Satchidananda, Kofi’s plangent soprano sax soaring over stormy glissandi in an odyssey that reflected Coltrane’s own intense spiritual journey.

Jim Gilchrist