Jazz review: The Jazz Bar Small Band

THE days between Christmas and New Year are notorious for many dubious, yuletide “customs”. Oversleeping, overeating and indulging in one too many tipples.

Thank goodness then for The Jazz Bar Small Band, who stirred the audience from their seasonal stupor with a varied programme of jazz and blues standards last night.

The four-piece band, consisting of saxophone, piano and rhythm section, set the tone with a swinging arrangement of I Hear a Rhapsody. This was followed closely by Golson composition, Along Came Betty, highlighting the saxophone talent of young virtuoso, Ruaridh Pattison.

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A brief interlude ensued, while veteran drummer Bill Kyle introduced his fellow musicians to the audience.

Joining Kyle in the band’s tight-but-spontaneous rhythm section was Erik Lars Hansen on double bass. A regular of the Jazz Bar’s Big Band, Hansen demonstrated his expertise on the set’s dissonant, free-romp improvs.

Most impressive was piano prodigy Alan Benzie, newly qualified from Boston’s leading conservatoire, Berklee College. Possessing impeccable technique, and musical imagination, Benzie confirmed his position as a prominent figure in Scotland’s contemporary scene.

However, there were issues when the musicians tried to demonstrate their cohesiveness as a group – with Hansen’s walking bass lines occasionally lost to the strident sound of Pattison’s saxophone.

Nevertheless, the ensemble were in fine form as they switched from the modal masterpiece of Miles Davis’ Milestones to bebop, with consummate ease and flair. The second half of the evening continued in similar vein with the band freely improvising on jazz, blues and Swingtime favourites.

Pick of the final short set belonged to the band’s smooth rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, a freewheeling take on the Judy Garland classic.

With the Big Band set to perform at the beginning of the New Year, the evening’s performance proved to be the perfect preview to what may come.

Sarah Nisbet