Tag Archives: John Escreet

Some Edinburgh Jazz Festival Gigs… July 2015.

Nearly a month has passed since the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, so I thought I’d gather my thoughts about some of the gigs I went to.

The big ticket for the festival was Antonio Sanchez’ Migration. They’d had a crap day, their luggage was lost by the airline, and they seemed to be beset by technical problems. But their playing was beautiful. Sanchez drumming was superlative, just wonderful, and I really liked John Escreet’s piano playing. I don’t get Seamus Blake playing an ewi (and his frantic activity when his Mac decided to run out of power proved very distracting), but his tenor playing was great. But the music didn’t hang together for me: they seemed less than the sum of the parts. They played the Meridian suite straight through, and it was quite intense: the frequent rhythm and time changes made it hard work to listen to. It seemed like a prog rock suite to me, more intellectual than emotional.

I decided to see Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet and Enrico Zanisi Trio at the last minute. Indeed I was late, since I mistook the Spiegel Tent in George Sq for the Spiegel Tent in St Andrew Sq. Two Spiegel Tents! Who knew? Well, everyone else who got there on time, obviously. LondonJazz had tweeted an ecstatic review of a London gig by Akinmusire, and I reckoned that if international musicians were going to visit Edinburgh, they deserve an audience. Actually, it was a packed house, and I was lucky to get a seat. Enrico Zanisi Trio played a good though not exceptional set. (Zanisi is playing a couple of solo gigs in more intimate settings in Islay next month.) Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet were superb. I had no expectations, but was really impressed. Akinmusire has a very clean, crisp sound, and kept away from histrionic solos: it’s like he knows how good he is and doesn’t need to show off. His playing left lots of space, lots of powerful, long notes. Drummer Justin Brown was amazing.

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Trio Red – in this incarnation, Tom Bancroft on drums and Tom Cawley on piano, with Furio di Castri on bass – were joined by writer David Grieg, who improvised stories as the band improvised music. The trio played a couple of numbers without Greig, and they were superb. Bassist di Castri played beautifully, a revelation since I’d not come across him before. (I was told that this was his Scottish debut.) Cawley and Bancroft work really well together, and the three of them made some excellent, incentive music. The intervention of Greig left me in two minds. I loved what he created – humorous, fascinating stories. But I found it distracted from the music: it was hard not to watch the screen on which his words appeared. Still, Trio Red were great, Greig’s words were fun and adventurous, di Castri was phenomenal, and full marks for experimenting.

Thelonious, a project started by Calum Gourlay to play every tune by Thelonious Monk, played a sell out show in the JazzBar. This was the fourth gig I’d seen Gourlay play in five weeks (with the SNJO, his duet gig in Glasgow, and a big band Ellington set earlier in EJF being the others), which probably qualifies me for stalker status. But he is very good (and I can’t recommend his solo CD highly enough). In Thelonious he is joined by Martin Speake on alto, David Dyson on drums and Hans Koller on… euphonium! Another piano-less Monk tribute. Given the instrumentation, I was surprised quite how straight the arrangements were. There was no messing around or weird interpretation, this was pure Monk. And it was very good indeed. They played a mixture of Monk’s standards such as Epistrophe, Criss Cross, Misterioso and Brilliant Corners, with less well known tunes. It was fascinating to hear a whole show of Monk’s sometimes jagged, angular tunes instead of just the occasional number dropped into a set. It emphasised how much of an influence he still is – the music sounded fresh, very now, and simultaneously wacky and normal. Gourlay said they’re recording a CD, and I look forward to it. I’m not sure you can have too much Monk.

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There was plenty of piano with the Dave Milligan Trio. It is great to see Milligan gigging again, and I hope we get to seed more of him: he is a marvellous, gentle, understated pianist, and it feels like he’s a bit of a private secret. Well not too private, because this was another sell out show. With Tom Bancroft on drums and Brodie Jarvie on bass, they played new tunes, a couple from Milligan’s CDs and some standards, including a thoughtful dedication to the late John Taylor. Just a lovely gig.

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The Transatlantic Collective. Edinburgh, November 2008.

A few weeks ago, I went to see the TransAtlantic Collective play the JazzBar. (I’d have written about it sooner, but I got waylaid by the London Jazz Festival; and a rather nasty cold, that laid me low for several days.)

Somehow, I had got it into my head that they were a trio; I was wrong: they are a quintet. Except that the trumpeter was called away, so the night I saw them, they played as a quartet, with saxophonist Patrick Cornelius as the sole lead instrument. (The following night in Glasgow, they were joined by trumpeter Ryan Quigley on trumpet and Konrad Wiszniewski on tenor for what sounds like a highly interactive gig split between two venues across the city!)

The JazzBar is a funny venue – I have been there many times, but I don’t really feel like I have a handle on it. It was pretty quiet to start with, lacking in atmosphere from the audience – it was a nasty evening outside – but later on it got busy – with lots of people who were there not to hear the music, but to drink. The hub-bub and bar-sounds threatened to drown out the band. The capacity for bar staff to clink glasses at the quietest moments is quite amazing. (Still, they are only doing their job, I know…) It is a small intimate venue, and I think I should like it more than I do – it is just that most of the audience seems to pay to get in just so they can talk over the music: and it pisses me off.

The band were excellent. They played a mixture of standards and tunes of their new album, Travelling Song – the title track is lovely – including a lovely piece of Freudian Ellingtontonia accidentally named “In A Semi Mental Mood”.

Each member of the band shone – Cornelius was excellent on alto sax, bassist Michael Janisch inventive and solid, and drummer Paul Wiltgen (who shared a lot of the writing duties, too – a talented guy) was both energetic and subtle. Pianist John Escreet took a bit longer to warm up, but be played some great solos in the second set.

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