Tag Archives: Arild Andersen

SNJO & Arild Andersen Play Mingus. Edinburgh, September 2016.

Arild Andersen joined the SNJO a bassist for the night, playing Mingus. The band have played Mingus before – back in 2003, Tommy Smith said – and I loved it then, and I loved it now. And it seemed like they loved it, too. Andersen has played with the orchestra several times, but this time he was (more or less) just the bassist – the music was the star. A special guest bassist, true, and he played some great solos – but then they were celebrating a special bassist.

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The first half was brilliant. They warmed up with Song With Orange, not a tune I’m familiar with. An extended solo from Andersen lead into the bass riff to Haitian Fight Song and then it all kicked off. The synchronised riffing from the saxes, trombones and trumpets, band members hollering in between riffs, and some fast and furious solos. Fables Of Faubus followed, more riffs backing the soloists.

Tommy Smith and Arild Andersen played Goodbye Pork Pie Hat largely as a duet. Smith’s solo was remarkably powerful. I’ve been seeing him play regularly since (I think) 1984 (a fund raising gig for his studies at Berklee and a small residency in a bar in Bruntsfield, if you’re interested), and somehow he gets better and better. It’s too easy to take musicians for granted, but once again I was reminded what world class musicians we have in Scotland.

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Not just Smith, mind. Soloist after soloist made their mark: Tom McNiven and Tom Walsh in the trumpets, Chris Grieve and Phil O’Malley in the trumpets and a whole slew of saxophonists – Martin Kershaw and Paul Towndrow on altos, with Kershaw also on soprano, and Konrad Wiszniewski belting out bluesy chorus after chorus.

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The first set was remarkable: exciting, high energy music. The second set felt a little more sedate, though only in comparison. It opened with Moanin’, a feature for Allon Beauvoisin on baritone. Apart from the ballad Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love, the other pieces were less well known. For the encore, though, the band were back to full on hollering form for Ecclusiastics. The high point was Wiszniewski and Smith trading choruses, each excited by the other’s performance (Smith a bit cooler, perhaps), until they joined together in a real tenor battle.

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A great evening, full of exciting music and solos. And a reminder if one were needed of the compositional skill of Charles Mingus: one reason his tunes work so well in a big band context is that he wrote for a large ensemble, but could only afford small groups. So he just made them sound big, instead.

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Mingus, in 1976.

John Etheridge Trio. London, November 2010.

After a fascinating session by musicians Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchins exploring the roots and evolution of jazz (part of the festival’s free education programme, they had two conversations over two days – these were a really interesting couple of afternoons), I ventured out to Kingston for Andy Sheppard’s Movements in Colour and Didier Malherbe’s Hadouk Trio. I wrote about this gig for the LondonJazz blog, so I won’t repeat myself here. This was very “world” tinged jazz. Malherbe’s band were interesting, lively and unexpected; Sheppard’s more – well, chilled. It is no surprised that they record on ECM – they have that very cool, European sound. Despite Sheppard’s excellent – though controlled – sax playing, the star for me was bassist Arild Andersen. I’d go a long way to see him play.

Which I did the next day, venturing across London to see him play with John Etherdige and John Marshall. This was just a brilliant gig. It covered a range of moods, from relaxed to energetic, whilst maintaining a cohesive voice. Both Andersen and Etheridge used electronic looping to construct tracks to play along to, building up the layers of sound. They were, frankly, great. Marshall added so much – playing without amplification (the Bull’s Head, though one of London’s foremost jazz venues, is still really just a pub…), he was simultaneously subtle and powerful. This gig was just wonderful – they played exciting, adventurous music. Exactly as I expected.

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Arild Andersen, Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia. Edinburgh, December 2008.

Last night, I went to see Arild Andersen, Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia play at the Lot in Edinburgh. It was a very similar line up to the concert Andersen, Smith and Alyn Cosker played during the Edinburgh Jazz Festival – but something was missing, last night.

I’m not sure what to was: whether it was the weather, the venue (which normally I think is great – it is intimate, one is close the stage, and usually it works well), the audience (a largely middle aged crowd, for a change – I felt like I was the youngest there!) – or, just maybe, the musicians: perhaps they were feeling slightly jaded, since they are half way through a tour of Scotland, promoting their new CD (which has had some great reviews – and I picked up a copy last night. I have picked up a lot of music over the past couple of days!).

This was a good set, but not a great set – unlike the summer’s trio performance, or Smith and Andersen’s previous duets I saw in Edinburgh (almost exactly two years ago – memories of that evening may be influencing me) and Islay some time before that. It lacked a bit of intensity and excitement. Possibly, my own expectations were simply too high.

The music was lovely though; and the CD is pretty good, too!

Andersen, Smith & Cosker and the Brian Kellock Trio. Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2008.

The collaboration between Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith – winner of a recent award in the BBC jazz awards and Norwegian bass player Arild Andersen goes back a few years; I saw them in the ethereal setting of the Round Church in Bowmore, Islay, which produced a concert of such exquisite beauty that I was a little scared to see them again: how could they possibly match up to that memory, especially with the addition of Cosker on drums?

In Bowmore, the combination of the saxophone and the bass had created a mesmeric, meditative sound that was wholly suited to the setting. Andersen had used his ingenuity and some whizzy technology to set up loops of his percussive bass, providing rhythm to which he and Smith played their gentle melodies. How could drums not contrive to break that spell? Particular since I have seen Cosker play before, and he can be a loud, brash and domineering drummer.

The trio answered my concerns within moments. Andersen played a series of pizzicato phrases, looped them and set up a complex rhythm; and Cosker joined in seamlessly, working abstractly away from the beat. With Smith playing tenor, they created some magical sounds, mixing jazz and folk sensibilities to create their own sound.

It was beautifully contemplative, emotional music, the sounds meshing together to create a vivid soundscape. Stunningly lovely.

I have seen Smith and Andersen twice before – they toured Scotland in the autumn of 2006, when they also recorded together (apparently, they are releasing a CD on ECM this autumn – I don’t know if it was the 2006 sessions that provided the music for the CD) – and every gig I have seen them in was in a church or former church – the Round Church, the Lot, and now the Hub. Perhaps they choose their venues to fit the sound they produce…

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Andersen, Smith and Cosker were followed onto the stage at the Hub by a trio of Brian Kellock on piano, Chris Lightcap on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. They started off very free and open, Kellock scattering notes seemingly at random, Wilson working his kit and an assortment of hand-held percussion in response, leaving Lightcap to hold it together. This worked really well, the three of them creating an abstract space to explore.

After about ten minutes, the pianos chords resolved into “The Way You Look Tonight”, and Kellock started to play it straight ahead in the mainstream. After the experimental start, I thought this would be temporary, Kellock showing where he had come from and that he could play different styles. Instead, they were firmly stuck in the mainstream for the next hour or so.

This was a pity. They didn’t match the interest they had generated early; they played it very straight – it was good, they knew what they were doing, and they played some great standards, but it wasn’t the same.

They were joined for the last three numbers by Lianne Carroll as guest vocalist. I don’t particularly like jazz singers – and as jazz singers go, I thought Carroll was all right – the vocals didn’t impinge too much – she was using her voice as an instrument in the ensemble, rather being the dominant voice – but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

Perhaps I had been spoiled after the wonderful set by Andersen, Smith and Cosker; either, I wasn’t especially enamoured of the trio. All right as far as it went, but they had shown so much more promise.