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Review: Edinburgh Jazz Festival

The Troubles

The Troubles

Jazz Bar

Rob Adams

JAZZ and football aren't habitual playmates. One memorable example of their combining was drummer John Rae's Jock Stein: A Love Supreme contribution to a Scottish National Jazz Orchestra celebration of great Scots some years ago, and Rae was in the football zone again on this return with a group from his current home in New Zealand.

Brazil's World Cup semi-final capitulation to Germany gave Rae the chance to rag his old and fortunately absent friend, Brazilian bassist Mario Caribe with an improvised and suitably rhythmical incorporation of the 7-1 scoreline to much mirth. Rae has always had an entertaining, not to say potentially populist approach to jazz and he consistently laced the Troubles' often hard-hitting sax, bass and drums adventures with lighter, sometimes rabble-rousing moments.

His muse in the latter seemed to be Charles Mingus and there was much of Mingus's rallying of his troops in the trio's unfettered, involved and evolving interaction on group originals, including Les Oiseaux d'Amour with its percussive, birdsong-like call and response and the delightfully Turkish Eastern Promises, and jazz familiars such as Thelonious Monk's Nutty.

Saxophonist Lucien Johnson made the absence of a harmony instrument immaterial, playing tenor and soprano with a sense of enquiry tempered by a keen awareness of structure while bassist Patrick Bleakley acted as the fulcrum, creating a strong presence that allowed Rae to prompt and propel the melodic development at the music's heart. Long-time Rae watchers will not have been surprised to hear that The Troubles' message is jazz with personality any more than they would have been to hear that personality positively erupt from The Sheik of Araby.

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