18 October 2018


Late-night funk followed at the Jazz Bar. I may not have hung around but Rich and Amelia dropped in and a drink and a listen to the start had us grooving for the first, lengthy set. Let me say, I love funk. I love that deep groove, that repetition and excess and fluency when it’s done right. This was done seriously right by 101st Airborne led by Aki Remally out front on a very sensuous guitar. Think Prince and Jimi, all mellifluous playfulness and speedy excess and soft insinuity. I felt Aki led but the others were no slouchers. Jim on drums was all thuddy stubbornness and occasional unexpected polyrhythms. Richard on keys was tunefulness and celerity, but it’s keys and so without that lubricious voluptuousness that acoustics and strings can do. Tom on bass was just driving and phat and deeply groovy with all manner of techniques - finger-funk, thumbs, slap. The volume was loud. Aki sang once of twice and that was great if somewhat lost in the mix. We were smiling and grooving deeply and had mostly given up on talk given the volume. The dance cast of Matthew Bourne’s recreated Swan Lake (think menacing male swans with the original Tchaikovsky) was in Edinburgh on tour for the week and laughing and dancing on tables next to us. So this was deep, deep grooves with those incessant drums and simple chords of funk and the smeariest of flirtatious guitar. We could only love this deeply. Congratulations to the band and the venue and the effervescent audience even if my ears still offer a record of the night as I write this.

101st Airborne performed at the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh for a late funk session. They comprised Aki Remally (guitar, vocals), Richard Harrold (keyboard), Tom Wilkinson (bass) and Jim Drummond (drums).

17 October 2018


Tuesday is jazz jam night at the Jazz Bar. Ever hopeful, I went along for a listen and perhaps to play but first up I was taken aback by the band. Not that they were poor, but that they were anything but: this was clearly and scarily an excellent trio. I wondered if it left much confidence for sit-ins but then I just decided it was a high level session. Jams exist at various levels of competence and this just looked like a top-level outing. Peter Johnstone led from the piano, all skill and speed and invention, spaced and slippery and reminding me of Keith Jarrett, and followed nicely by a most excellent bass from Andy Robb, all syncopations and thumb positions and flexibility and deliciously interesting phrasings. Who might sit in here, I’m thinking. Doug Hough on drums initially seemed more laid back but his solos, too, were unexpected, discursive, easily inventive, so the night was looking like a classy trio with perhaps a hot horn to sit in. That’s OK but more awesome concert than jam. Then a break and a series of guests: Ken Rose on tenor; Teddy Lyons on drums; Dylan Turner on another tenor; another trumpet. All capable and interesting but not quite as fearsome as the host trio. Then I met Rob Anderson who put down a pocket trumpet (Bb, small) on my table while readying to get up, so we chatted. He was from Perth (Australia not Scotland). We chatted of WAAPA and local players and the jam styles and instruments had me more relaxed and ready to chance my arm and anyway I wanted to try out Andy’s bass. He had a bass extension mounted and that interested me (he’d played some classical in the past but little now). So I was up, for the final two tunes. The bass was nice and the amp excellent. The host trio had worked on various standards including Skylark, Celia, Nobody else but me and they had treated them very freely, open in timing and harmony and deliciously tangential. The jammers were more evident while doing a perfectly capable job, again on standards like I’ll remember you and Softly. My two were Monk’s dream and Bye bye blackbird. Monk’s dream was a nice medium up, comfy and swinging. BBB was called by Rob for his wife when he got up and was quick. I enjoyed the feels, with so-capable Pete for both and Doug for the final tune. The groove was steady and driving and there were some smiles in the back line and some adjustments for at least one groove that moved a little. But that’s all part of the fun and fun it was. These were excellent players to play with. I’d admired the hosts’ opening set hugely and enjoyed the blowing and finally got a few tunes and a feel of the bandstand. Great fun and a great memory and an awesome host band. Thanks to all.

The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, hosts a jazz jam each weekly on Tuesday nights. The host band changes but this night was Pete Johnstone (piano), Andy Robb (bass) and Dough Hough (drums). Sit-ins were Ken Rose (tenor), Teddy Lyons (drums), Dylan Turner (tenor), Rob Anderson (pocket trumpet), Eric Pozza (bass) and another unknown trumpeter.

16 October 2018

Also above Cowgate

This one was just across the road from the Jazz Bar and still high on the volcanic plug but a steep laneway almost next door led down to the Cowgate and a string of other venues. But otherwise it had little in common. The Royal Oak is a ridiculously small performance space at street level behind two layers of glass. Perhaps 4x4m for some seating and standing and a well stocked bar (that’s common!) and stone walls and rich timber-work. Inside were just a small contingent. The players were folkies so little gear needed, just acoustic guitar and banjo and slide guitar, sitting in one corner with audience almost falling over them. I’d expected some gaelic folk but heard this as more US-styled with that slide guitar and banjo and a strummed guitar. And some fabulous harmonies from the two central players, a male tenor and harmonising female (soprano?). Both strongly and confidently voiced and beautifully attuned. That really was delicious. There was some audience participation, too, with some occasional voices in harmony and it was an open stage. We caught two women singing / playing later. Earlier it was fairly quiet in the audience but then the chatter arose but it was a small place and remained respectful of the music. In a strange twist, we got chatting to a couple from … Canberra. Small world. Some delicious harmonies and some lively and tight folky grooves from Scott, Linda and James.

br> Scott Orchard (banjo, vocals), Linda Larking (vocals, guitar) and James Stewart (slide guitar) performed at the Royal Oak in Edinburgh.

15 October 2018

Above Cowgate

Edinburgh’s old town and its famous castle is built on a volcanic plug so it’s dark and hard and oddly structured. Mostly that’s built over these days, so there are long streetscapes but it requires bridges to cross deep cuts, like Cowgate, and turn a corner and there are long stairways or steep alleyways. It’s the area of the university and hostels and boasts a busy night life. And the Jazz Bar. It’s a simple name. It’s a basement venue and a busy one. The program has 2 or 3 gigs every night, mostly jazz but also funk or the like. And like some other jazz venues, they have a resident big band gathering each monday. I found it interesting that an open rehearsal precedes the gig and I found it amusing that one local corrected someone in the audience for applauding during the rehearsal. It didn’t make much difference: there was applause none-the-less. The band didn’t seem to have a name, just the Jazz Bar’s 17-piece Big Band. The program said it had a variable line-up of pro-class players who come in from Glasgow, Borders, Perth, Fife to play with others from Edinburgh and it’s co-led by two members, saxist Keith Edwards and ex-LA bassist Erik Lars-Hansen. It’s true that they were slick. The repertoire was mostly standards but scored for big band with some delicious colours. That’s one of the wonders of the big band, of course, that colour. One tune seemed to boast a transcribed solo played by a section and that was intricate and exciting. There were some genuinely decent solos, too. That’s something I often find lacking in big bands. My guess is that bb players mainly perform as ensemble members and solos are short so they have little time to extend themselves. The rehearsal was interesting, with starts and stops and repeats from various bar numbers and with some general comments from Erik over the PA about time and feel but the playing still had life. The performance had a little more gig formality and some amusing chatter from the stage for a pretty packed audience and some nicely slick playing. So some great playing of fairly mainstream style and repertoire for a generous audience. Nice.

The Jazz Bar Big Band played at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar with co-leaders Keith Edwards (sax) and Erik Lars-Hansen (bass).

14 October 2018

More stone

There’s no end of stone up here. Neolithic and bronze age but also in churches, housing and more modern buildings, hotels, offices and the like. Anything pre-C20th. I remember feeling surprisingly at home when I first walked down the main street of Edinburgh thinking it reminded me of Adelaide (my home town). Not surprising. Adelaide was established by a private company with Scottish connections. In fact, one thing we are doing here is exploring an ancestor of Megan’s who came to Adelaide in 1837 from around this area. He died in Strathalbyn, outside Adelaide. All local, there and here. So, there are stone buildings in classical styles in Australia but not castles which are quintessential sites of interest for new worlders here in Scotland. More rocks.

Mary Baker led an Archaeotour for Norman, Megan and Eric.

13 October 2018

Art of other eras

Not all we are doing here is music. We are away from cities now and the interest is more dated. First up, archaeology, neolithic times, uncertain purposes, simple techniques, stone carvings, standing stones, funerary monuments, perhaps representations of reproduction (think standing stones and rock circles and shadows cast). And these techniques and technologies that passed into more modern times, not least mediaeval stone crosses. We are just north of Glasgow visiting such matters, avoiding rain, enjoying occasional sunshine. Not that it’s cold. This summer has been climate-changed bliss in Europe, all sunshine and heat with no less than 24degC predicted in western Scotland in a few days time (in mid-October). When the rain isn’t heavier than usual and flooding inner Oban. Such is our future, but we are looking at our past in standing stones and cup and ring carvings in Argyleshire.

Mary Baker led an Archaeotour for Norman, Megan and Eric.

12 October 2018


It was a wet Saturday after a brilliant run of weather, so a day to go inside. So I thought. So did others. I ambled off in light rain, through a packed tube, across wet roads, through a quiet Bloomsbury park, to the British Museum. Bad choice. I’d never seen it like this. It’s a place of incredible history and treasures collected through empire and wealth with at least some limited justification that it’s well preserved and free but everyone knows that and everyone was there that day. I managed a stroll and came across the Portland vase which has haunted me since my last visit. I am intrigued by technology that’s been unexpectedly around for yonks and that the modern world reinvents. One is the safety pin which the Etruscans and others had as the fibula but won a patent as the safety pin in the US in the C19th. This day I discovered another: the Romans had pocket (=small, folding) knives. See one pic here. It’s not surprising really. They were clever and that technology is easily within their capabilities. There’s lots of fabulous gold and metals and rock and ceramics, of course, because they last. But I am also intrigued by leather and clothing and the like that usually doesn’t. The Cairo museum has a loaf of bread! Sandals are not too common but intriguing. Again, a pic or two. So I caught a few stunning pieces but was glad to escape.

The British Museum is in London.