Gig review: The Ingham Johnstone Project, Byre Theatre, St Andrews

A NIGHT of vivid colour was provided by the Ingham Johnstone Project in a jazz-poetry mash-up at the Byre Theatre.

Brian Johnstone, a man with possibly the whitest hair and moustache in Fife, led the way as head of Trio Verso, accompanied by Richard Ingham on a selection of horns and whistles, while Louise Major wrapped herself around her double bass, applying bows and sticks to both string and wood with vigour.

The shades of autumn, redness of strawberries on a plate and glass of various colours being tossed into bottle banks made up some memorable Johnstone prose. As did the good old days, with his stories of LPs and the Home Service as well as fluid imaginings featuring Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe and the Bash Street Kids. As effervescent as proceedings were, trombonist John Kenny somehow ramped up the pleasure in his cameo by magically producing the sounds of radio static and snoring cats from his instrument.

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Part two was made up of Johnstone’s tribute to troubled painter, pianist and poet Weldon Kees, through a story which merged Kees’ mysterious disappearance with tales of Robinson, a creation who inhabited much of the American’s verse.

A pulsating pulpy tale for a 20-piece jazz orchestra, narrators and soloists, Robinson’s ebb and flow occasionally lost its focus, not helped by some words being lost among the orchestration’s wilder moments. But it’s a fleeting downside to an evocative and eye-opening spectacle.

Rating: ****

Brian Donaldson