Tag Archives: Aidan O’Donnell

Phil Bancroft Quartet. Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2008.

My first gig of this year’s jazz festival was the Phil Bancroft Quartet at the Hub – indeed, all but one of the gigs I went to was at the Hub (in contrast to last year, where all but one was at the Spiegel Tent). It was a hot Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a darkened hall listening to jazz; but this quartet quickly blew the cobwebs away.

They played a varied set – Bancroft explained how he liked different styles of music to do different things emotionally – and the tunes spanned a dynamic range, drummer Stu Ritchie somehow achieving the wonderful feat of being energetic and driving whilst playing with care, precision and – best of all – quietly: Ritchie was excellent.

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But then this band has pedigree, with the wonderful Aidan O’Donnell on bass and Paul Harrison on piano. It was a fun gig – the music seemed to express Bancroft’s quirky humour – and the playing was excellent throughout.

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Bancroft said that someone had told him he looked like the recently discovered Radovan Karadzic, and we shouldn’t be surprised if UN forces burst in to drag him off to the Hague; but the person behind me said he looked rather more like Hagrid.

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Ethan Iverson Quintet: Play Monk. Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2006.

Iverson’s third outing at this year’s Edinburgh jazz festival, this time with a band of local musicians playing the music of Thelonious Monk: Colin Steele on trumpet, Laura MacDonald on alto sax, Aidan O’Donnell on bass and Alan Cosker on drums. With other musicians around him, Iverson was more relaxed than earlier in the week.

The angular, jagged character to Monk’s compositions suited Iverson’s style – he said he had been playing these tunes since he was fourteen (which I would guess means the last twenty years or so) – and he played with a lot of energy, launching out of the piano stool to hit the notes.

Colin Steele

Steele was on fine, fiery form, driven along by the piano; he played some excellent muted trumpet, and he brings a great deal of pyrotechnic excitement to the bandstand. MacDonald, who had already played a solo gig that night, was flying, her solos building within the structure of Monk’s tunes. Iverson gently prodded the keys behind the soloists, a few piano notes adding just a touch of texture.

Iverson avoided the better-known of Monk’s tunes – there was no Round Midnight or Blue Monk – but they covered much of Monk’s career. Misterioso, Well You Needn’t, Crepuscule With Nellie and what sounded like Monk’s Mood (it was name checked as Ask Me Know – not a track I know) were all featured.

Laura MacDonald

There were only two non-Monk compositions – a sax feature of Body And Soul from MacDonald, and a beautiful version of Angel Eyes for Steele.

Whilst the music was excellent, there was little re-interpretation of these classic tunes. Iverson was working from recently published versions of the music, derived from the original manuscripts, and he could have brought some more of himself to the tunes.

Colin Steele

Colin Steele’s Stramash. Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2006.

Stramash is Steele’s regular jazz quintet augmented by three fiddlers, a cellist, and a piper; part jazz, then, and part something else. The fiddlers – and they were definitely fiddlers rather than violinists – and the piper give the lie: there is a lot of folk in trumpeter Steele’s new band.

The first set comprised of older numbers which had been re-arranged by pianist Dave Milligan for the larger ensemble. Whilst some jazz-with-strings becomes syrupy and anodyne, the fiddles gave a dynamic, rough edge, balanced by the softer cello. The pipes emphasised the celtic atmosphere of Steele’s tunes, which are firmly rooted in Scottish locations and tradition.

Steele’s trumpet took much more of a backseat role – at times he was simply conducting the strings – as he let the pipes and strings take the lead.

The second half of the concert comprised music composed specially for this band, inspired by a visit to Islay. The music invoked the island well, some tunes reflecting places (Loch Indaal, the Round Church) and others moods (“Farewell My Love” – a lament to leaving the island).

Phil Bancroft played some storming and lyrical tenor and soprano sax solos – in duet with Stu Ritchie’s excellent drums in “Louis’ First Gig” and “The Simpson’s Jig”, another in trio with Ritchie and Milligan, the drums and piano supporting Bancroft as he let fly.

Milligan was excellent throughout, playing some beautiful, mournful solos, and Aidan O’Donnell kept the whole unit together on the bass.

The fiddles knew how to swing, bringing a foot-stamping party spirit to some parts and a soft, Highland lament to others.

This was an energetic, entertaining concert, which brought the audience to its feet, hollering in the ceilidh spirit.