Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 18 Nov
Colin Towns has an impressive track record as a film composer, but to jazz fans he is the man behind the excellent contemporary jazz big band, the Mask Orchestra, and Provocateur Records, an independent label that fostered an impressive roster of British jazz talent (rock fans with long memories may even remember him playing keyboards with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan back in the 70s).
Towns also has a well-established working relationship with the NDR Big Band, and earlier this year released three simultaneous recordings with the Hamburg-based outfit. One featured singer Norma Winstone with the band on It’s Later Than You Think. A second, Hot Licks (and Funny Smells), was devoted to their imaginative re-workings of the music of Frank Zappa, and the third was a studio album of Towns’ own music.
The Winstone and Zappa projects will be the focus of this rare Edinburgh gig, featuring Norma and the NDR Band. Towns has been a Zappa fan since his own rock days, and painstakingly made the transcriptions of his music he used in the project from the original recordings, before subjecting them to his own distinctive treatments.
‘It isn’t a Zappa gig, it’s a celebration of the qualities of the music. The pieces themselves decide what freedom you have. Some of the stuff you can pull around a lot, and I have done so, but you also have to know when to leave well alone, like ‘Peaches en Regalia’, where I changed the chords a little, but more or less left it as it was.’
His collaboration with Winstone features a repertorie of songs by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Jaco Pastorius, Randy Newman and Towns himself, and brings out a different facet of this legendary improvising singer. It should be an irresistible combination.