DJ Rebecca Vasmant shares a love letter to Glasgow’s Jazz scene

17th July 2019
DJ and promoter Rebecca Vasment writes a love letter to Glasgow and its under-celebrated Jazz scene

London has been getting a lot of press over the last few years for the melting pot of amazing and diverse artists coming through on the Jazz scene. For an outsider looking in, it seems that every week there is another musician, another band and another duo coming out of the city. However, it’s time for the spotlight to spread to Glasgow, Scotland. Yes – you read that right. 

Exciting bands like Aku, Strata and Animal Society beg to he heard by the rest of the world. Since the city is small in size, musicians form a family, supporting each other in their endeavours. Glasgow Jazz festival weekend has just wrapped; a perfect demonstration of the talent happening here; homegrown young musicians such as Fergus McCreadie, Harry Weir and Graham Costello coming through the conservatoire are killing it with their own projects. 

Jazz is weaved throughout Glasgow’s history and is so important to our culture. Tommy Smith who founded the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra for example, is championed for having fought to add Jazz into the curriculum at the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland, thus nourishing young musicians and allowing Jazz to thrive in the liveliest sense. 

Glasgow has been recognised since the late 80s across electronic music, folk, classical and Indie. However now, there’s been an increase in venues spotlighting Jazz, like the recently opened Blue Arrow, and The 78 who have run a weekly Jazz jam for a number of years. And let’s not forget the older venues too, who have a significant on today’s rich scene. 

Glasgow institution Sub Club, back in the 50s and 60s, hosted a basement that was an after-hours jazz venue known as Le Cavé. Several Jazz heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, are said to have performed there; it’s worth noting that Le Cavé was later known as Lucifers and also, the Jamaica Inn . In the late 80s, Nick Peacock would play Jazz dance and Latin records Nick himself and locals say that he was the first to play out this style of music – he’s still playing at the venue, forty years later. 

“Chippendales at the Clydeside was where everyone used to go”, says Nick. “And it was Jazz, soul and funk”. Paul Murphy, a DJ who brought even more Jazz to Glasgow, was playing at Chippendales one night as a guest. Nick explains to me that his brother brought Paul round to The Jamaica Inn to see the place. When he walked in he immediately asked to play there, so he finished up his set and brought some records round to Jamaica Inn. Murphy played Carmen McRay’s ‘Take Five’ as his first record. Nick remembers the tempo change when he dropped the record and explained how people went berserk; A moment he’s never forgotten. 

Another key member of Glasgow’s scene is Cheryl Chadna, who created a space for musicians to form relationships in. Dukes, a Glasgow Jazz institution, ran every Thursday until two years ago. Some of those musicians who played there, now play at The Blue Arrow – the first Jazz-specific venue – opened by Cheryl herself. Cheryl opened the venue out of a pure passion for the music, and wanting to help the scene grow locally. 

As someone who collects records and performs sets, all of this is hugely exciting, it feels like the divide between seated Jazz gigs, aimed at older audiences, and clubs run in a party environment aimed at allowing people to dance and have a party to the music is disappearing. 

People are now much more open to listening to Jazz in a way that’s aimed at dancing and having a party, rather than sitting down and listening. For me and other DJs, this is hugely exciting; playing in spots like these is what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and thanks to the recent surge in popularity of Jazz among young people, this is becoming a reality. 

So who are the Glasgow Jazz musicians that you should have on your radar? Graham Costello‘s STRATA, for one. Graham started playing drums at age six, being self-taught until he began studying Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he then formed his band STRATA to bridge the gap between the independent scene and the Jazz scene, spearheading a new approach and sound in the growing Scottish improvised music landscape and bringing this music to new audiences. Then there’s Liam Shortall‘s Corto Alto; Liam Shortall is a 21 year old trombonist and recent graduate of the RCS Jazz course. He’s since become a regular performer in the booming scene. A vibrant character, Corto Alto is one of his newest and most exciting projects. Meanwhile, AKU, consisting of Harry Weir (tenor/baritone saxophone/effects), Liam Shortall (trombone/tuba/effects) and Graham Costello (drums), play a mix of hard hitting heavy rhythmical originals and covers of music by Shabaka Hutchings, Fela Kuti and Young Fathers. They call it doom-Jazz! 

Large ensembles are getting a fair share of spotlighting, too. Fat-Suit is a 14 piece instrumental collective who deliver a mighty fusion of Jazz, rock, and folk. Compared to American fusion juggernaut Snarky Puppy, the line up features guitars, violins, keyboards, horns, bass, drums and percussion – it includes players who have been finalists in both the Young Jazz Musician and Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition. Speaking of competition winning artists, also look to the ferocious new band from Sottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year, Joe Williamson. There’s heavy riffs, soaring melodies, all manner of synth noises and high energy improvising.

Below are a few more Glasgow Jazz artists to know about: 

 

\\ Fergus McCreadie Trio

Labelled as the most exciting new talent to emerge from Scotland in a decade by Jazz Scotland, the Fergus McCreadie Trio comprising of McCreadie on Piano, David Bowden on Bass, and Stephen Henderson on drums, the music blends Jazz and Scottish Traditional Music.

 

\\ Brodie Jarvie Quintet

The music of Brodie Jarvie is masterfully composed pieces that can seem both simple, playful and intricate. With Powerful lyrical music, masterful arranging and a clear and honest attitude towards music, a grounding force on the bass, he’s an active musician on the local scene doing lots of writing and composing for all of his projects. 

 

\\ Elusive Tree Ensemble

The Elusive Tree Ensemble members – Doug Hough, Andy Baker, Adam Jackson, Phil Cardwell, Ben MacDonald and Paul Harrison – are a collective of Scotland’s finest up and coming Jazz musicians, showcasing exciting talent in performance and composition. This 6-piece ensemble explores the full spectrum of sound, demonstrating what The Herald called “a superb variety of moods, energy levels, grooves and arrangement ideas”

 

\\ Nimbus Sextet 

Featuring some of the most creative players from the Glasgow and Edinburgh scenes, Nimbus Sextet are a new contemporary Jazz group playing original music that spans the Jazz & world music spectrum.  Marrying Afro-Cuban and other world music influences with post-bop, hip-hop and funk, their music channels a unique rhythmic energy and interlaces this with rich melodic ideas. The band includes: Joe Nichols (Keys, Piano & Harmonica), Martin Fell (Alto & Soprano Sax, Clarinet), Euan Allardice (Trumpet), Luca Pisanu (Guitar), Mischa Stevens (Bass), Alex Palmer (Drums).

Look out for Rebecca Vasmant’s upcoming Glasgow Jazz special on Worldwide FM, 5 August

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