Jazz preview: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to revive its Late Night Studio Jazz Season

Saxophonist Laura MacDonald
Saxophonist Laura MacDonald
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Dixieland jazz, straight-ahead contemporary, Brazilian classics, big band, not to mention a manic introductory burst of cartoon music … it’s all there as Glasgow, UNESCO City of Music, greets the autumn by reviving its Late Night Studio Jazz Season, a welcome development in a city which has developed a thriving pub session scene but little in the way of more formal, regular jazz performance platforms.

Based in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s City of Music Studio, the late-night concerts will feature such top-rate Scottish performers as the Ugly Bug Ragtime Three, featuring clarinettist John Burgess, guitarist Ross Milligan and bassist Andy Sharkey playing vintage jazz from the Twenties and Thirties (21 October); saxophonist Laura MacDonald celebrating the music of Cole Porter with guitarist Kevin MacKenzie, Mario Caribe on bass and drummer Alyn Cosker (18 November); and Caribe later joining pianist Paul Harrison and drummer Stu Brown in Trio Mágico to play the music of Egberto Gismonti (2 December).

Other performers include the formidable emerging talent of the Tommy Smith Youth Orchestra, on 25 November, and the duo of saxophonist Paul Towndrow and pianist Steve Hamilton on 16 December, while a special guest on 4 November is pianist, composer and Radio 3 presenter Julian Joseph, giving a rare solo recital.

The season gets off to a high-energy start on 14 October with Glasgow drummer Stu Brown’s Twisted Toons septet, with Brian Molley and Martin Kershaw on reeds, trumpeter Tom MacNiven, pianist Paul Harrison, bassist Caribe and Greg Lawson on violin. The band specialises in performing the hyperactive but also demanding scores composed by Carl Stalling and Scot Bradley for the Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry cartoons.

For Brown, who returns later for the Trio Mágico concert, the Studio Jazz gigs, now in their fifth season with hopes they might become an annual event, are a welcome development. “There’s a really great scene in Glasgow,” he says, “but there’s also been a lack of a proper regular jazz venue here for a long time. With the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland now offering jazz courses, there are so many young students playing around here, a lot of them extremely good.

“They’re putting on bar gigs, but if someone wants to present a new project or bring a band up from England, they have to put them on at one of these bar gigs because there isn’t really a proper, ticketed and promoted venue in a nice setting. So these Studio Jazz gigs are filling a space and it would be great if there were more.”

One reason Twisted Toons are playing on the night of the 14th is because earlier that day they’ll be playing in the City of Music Studio, to a somewhat younger though doubtless suitably riotous audience, as part of the Concert Hall’s admirable Big Music for Minis weekend for under-sevens.

Brown’s electronic music duo with Harrison, Herschel 36, is currently recording the live score they created earlier this year for the ground-breaking 1920s German space film Wunder der Schöpfung at the Bo’ness Hippodrome festival of silent film. He’s interested in further developing his live-score work, and is also involved in the unique glass percussion project led by artist Carrie Fertig. And due for release later this year is an album with pianist Tom Gibbs and bassist Euan Burton, marking the tenth anniversary of the regular gigs they host at Glasgow’s 78 bar.

In the meantime, next Friday sees the only Scottish gig, at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar, during a UK tour by the US saxophonist Craig Handy. A highly respected musician’s musician, who has worked with the likes of Art Blakey, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield and Wynton Marsalis, Handy will be accompanied by a sterling trio of pianist Jonathan Gee, bassist Nicola Sabato and Rod Youngs on drums.

*The Late Night Studio Jazz season begins on 14 October. For full details see www.glasgowconcerthalls.com

*For details of Craig Handy’s Edinburgh Jazz Bar show, see www.thejazzbar.co.uk