New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
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AT their first appearance in the Royal Concert Hall’s New Auditorium, Jonathan Morton and his Scottish Ensemble, using the space as a small chamber hall with a stage, opened up a few more horizons for a group with a vision.
Morton’s mantra is “redefining the string orchestra”. He took that one stage further on Sunday by adding other instruments to the string ensemble: piano, flute, clarinet and bassoon. Instantly, of course, the repertoire horizons of the group expanded, allowing the artistic director to add breadth and greater colour to his terrific all-American programme, played to a near-capacity audience who, I think, lapped it all up (I certainly did.)
It was one of those performances where you could feel the character of the music through the playing and almost sense the zest and warmth with which it was delivered. It was there to be heard in the beauty and excitement of Mark Stewart’s To Whom It May Concern, rolling effortlessly into the taut, cogent rhythms of John Adams’ Shaker Loops - the best performance of that piece I’ve ever heard. It touched the clever and sophisticated convolutions of Nico Muhly’s Motion, and gave us an incredibly concise account of Philip Glass’s Second String Quartet.
But the ultimate and absolute joy for this listener lay in the performances of James Manson’s collection of Shaker tunes, Meeting at Nisqueunia, a fabulous piece, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring, which received an utterly gorgeous performance, with all the spaciousness you could wish for in this masterpiece. Bravo to all: I came home with a big daft smile on my face.
Ryan Quigley Quintet
Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
Ryan Quigley might have to put any plans to stop touring on hold for a while. The trumpeter has just released a new album, What Doesn’t Kill You, that includes the track The Long Journey Home, a musical articulation of his yearning for kith, kin and familiar surroundings in Scotland. He’s also put a band together to promote it, with just one change in personnel from the recording, and he might find that people want to hear what they’re doing. A lot.
It’s a band – and a repertoire – that takes its inspiration from a bygone era, the days of great direct communicators like Freddie Hubbard and Cannonball Adderley, and brings its virtues right into the here and now. Quigley’s recent years of hard travelling have given his playing and compositions added depth and authority and as well as soloing with superb confidence, especially on the album’s title track where he created fabulous tension and release with slight, repeated variations of a choice, bravura phrase, he’s leading this ultra-high class band with assurance and clear enthusiasm.
His frontline partner, tenor saxophonist Paul Booth, is a player of tremendous fertility, consistently building ecstatic, brilliantly sustained improvisations, and the American rhythm section gives a master class in taking the basic shape of a song and re-fashioning it almost wholesale spontaneously. The result is a collective that’s high on energy but also alive to changes of tempo, direction and emotion, with the push-pull partnership of the muscular bassist Michael Janisch and snap-crackle-popping drummer Clarence Penn rolling with all the soloists’ punches while also playing off the exuberant Cuban-to-gospel probings of the marvellous pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
L7, O2 ABC, GLASGOW
To be a woman is to be taught from a young age that certain things are just not ladylike.
We are taught not to take up space, to keep quiet and to make ourselves small. Meanwhile, at rock shows up and down the country men we don’t know caress our shoulders under the guise of squeezing by, or crowd surf over our heads while wearing backpacks (seriously, who does that - especially during a song dedicated to “all the ladies in the house”?).
It’s why, almost 30 years on from the release of their debut album, the world still needs L7. Sure, throwing used tampons at your problems is rarely the best course of action, but sometimes there’s nothing more cathartic than taking out your pen, and making a list.
And if there was one word to describe the second Glasgow show for the four-piece since their 2014 reunion, it was catharsis: smart, funny and above all loud. There was Suzi Gardner, stage left, all bleach blonde hair and sunglasses, taking aim at every louse to take a woman for granted with a smile on her face: “I’m kicking you out, and you know why.” There was Donita Sparks, in her 50s and still a force to be reckoned with, smirking her way through Drama and that fan favourite singalong about her list.
The band still have plenty of reasons to be angry: the force with which bassist Jennifer Finch powered her way through a fiery Shirley only underlines a backing track of the sexist criticism drag racer Shirley Muldowney faced throughout her career, much of which could have been lifted directly from this year’s Olympic commentary. But what better way through it than with black humour and heavy bass?