August-2nd-2005, 12:44 AM
Got to Love this guy
Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Afro-Celt Jazz Ensemble, The Hub
ROB ADAMS August 02 2005
With names like Armstrong, Gillespie and Lewis involved in the music's development at various stages, the Scottish influence on jazz is already well-documented. But it goes deeper than that. Engage drummer John Rae in conversation and he'll tell you of Hebridean laments inspiring the blues. That Duke Ellington almost wrote Take the Tay Train and Thelonious Monk actually meant Off Licence instead of Off Minor, and that Gaelic psalm singing's tentacles extend into what's known as "Wee Free Improvisation".
And that – more or less – was the thesis Rae offered here with the help of the New Orleans-born alto saxophonist who, having established his own Scottish links, henceforth shall be known as Big Jesse Davis. If you dare. Being a devout Hibs fan, Rae even managed to introduce a Scottish football dimension by presenting a game of two halves.
The first comprised tentative melodies of love gone wrong and nostalgic airs, with suitably improvised Gaelic translations from Rae, and a couple of rather abrasive, nippy sweetie indeed, takes on the Highland Clearances' bebop favourite, I Got Rid of Them.
Part Two was much more relaxed and enjoyable, and featured the sextet in much more creative form both individually and collectively, pianist Brian Kellock notably reaping both delicate harmony and benign havoc in his solos and bassist Ugonna Okegwo providing lovely supple, springy lines at the music's bluesy heart. Proof was even presented of Scottish Country Dance music's bearing on New Orleans second line rhythms, with Davis, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and trombonist Robert Trowers reeling and wailing good-o over Rae's buoyant drumming, before a piper joined in for a rousing farewell – but not, I trust, a final goodbye.