Jazz Warriors: Taking the temperature at this year's decidedly hot Glasgow Jazz Festival
- Stewart Smith
- 14 June 2019
Expect everything from funky brass players to Ethiopian pioneers in this year's diverse offerings
The tuba played a fundamental role in the early jazz bands, only to fall out of favour as the double bass commandeered the bottom end. In the modern era, players like Bill Barber, Ray Draper, Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart have explored the possibilities of the instrument, paving a new way for contemporary tubists like Marcus Rojas and José Davila.
On this side of the pond, Oren Marshall and his protégé Theon Cross, as well as Glasgow's own Danielle Price who plays with Bill Wells in The Sensory Illusions, have led the field. A member of Shabaka Hutchings' mighty Sons of Kemet, and a key player in the new London jazz scene, Cross brings a funky swagger to the tuba, laying down fiery basslines and mind-boggling solos that channel grime, hip-hop and bashment as much as they do jazz. His debut album Fyah, featuring saxophonist Nubya Garcia and drummer Moses Boyd, came out in February to great acclaim, and now Cross brings his earthquaking bass and infectious grooves to the Glasgow Jazz Festival, completing a programme of international legends and homegrown talent.
Ethiopian jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke makes a welcome return to the festival, backed by a crack band of UK jazz talent including master bassist John Edwards. Characterised by his shimmering vibraphone and otherworldly harmonies, Astatke's music is an elegant fusion of Ethiopian melodies, Latin percussion, modern jazz and psychedelic funk. Since finding a new audience through Jim Jarmusch's film Broken Flowers and the wonderful Ethiopiques compilations, Astatke has continued to push ahead, working with The Heliocentrics and US experimentalists Either / Orchestra, and writing The Yared Opera as part of a Harvard fellowship.
Representing the avant-garde are Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra and their special guests Maggie Nicols and Joëlle Léandre. Towering figures of improvised music, the pair were members of the European Women's Improvising Group in the 1980s, later forming the feminist cabaret trio Les Diaboliques with Irène Schweizer. A pioneer of vocal improvisation, Nicols has been a friend of GIO since its inception. A powerful vocalist in her own right, Léandre is one of the great double bassists, having worked with Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton and Nicole Mitchell. For their concert's first half, Nicols and Léandre will perform in small groups with GIO members, while the second half features a full-scale GIO performance of A Madman's Approach to Music, based on a poem by the late Scottish bassist (and tubist!) Lindsay L Cooper.
GIO's Raymond MacDonald plays his own show at The Glad Café, reprising his homage to the great Scottish writer Muriel Spark. His GIO comrade, Stuart Brown plays with Paul Harrison as their electronic duo Herschel 36 heads for the Glasgow Science Centre planetarium to perform a live soundtrack of the extraordinary 1925 German silent film, Wunder Der Schöpfung. At the Old Fruitmarket, Graham Costello's explosive outfit Strata join Fat Suit and Mezcla for an evening of contemporary Scottish jazz, while the Fergus McCreadie Trio play from their acclaimed debut Turas at The Blue Arrow.
Glasgow Jazz Festival, various venues, Glasgow, Wed 19–Sun 23 Jun.
Glasgow Jazz Festival
The Glasgow Jazz Festival has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz, blues, soul, funk, R&B and world music across the years, from Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Elvin Jones and Pat Metheny to Tony Bennett, Buddy Guy, Pee Wee Ellis and Tito Puente. With major concerts, a late-night jazz club, film screenings and…