Zog Blog - The Scottish Leg / by Elaine Crouch

Zog Blog 

Gig 24

Jazz at The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen

Another really top vibe gig to a big crowd, all willing us on. It’s suddenly got so cold outside - not sure if that’s just this far north or if it’s the same everywhere - but there was a concensus that hot jazz was the best way to combat the icy arctic wind! Everyone was very hospitable and we enjoyed a couple of birthday drinks with Geoff Gascoyne afterwards.

Gig 23

The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh

This is the venue set up by drummer, Bill Kyle, who sadly passed away last year. Bill used to book me when he lived in Guildford and I was a student. Later he got me involved with the Glasgow Jazz Festival and a regular gig with killer New York vibes player, Joe Locke. As a result of that connection I recorded my second solo cd in New York with Joe, Joey Calderazzo, Adam Nussbaum and James Genus and made some great connections across the pond. It was Bill, too, who encouraged me to take an active part in the Musicians' Union, which has led to me being an elected member of the London Regional Committee.

Now the club is run by his daughter, Edith. They had a singer / guitarist on before us and a band after, with a similar 3 shows nightly policy through the week. There is a broad demographic and our two sets were full. It’s a bit more 'rock’n’roll' in here than the quieter as clubs and theatres we've been playing, so I let the soundman, Alisdair Kampff, do his thing, and what a great job he did. I had a feeling he had his act well together when he proudly showed me the Sennheiser 441 he had for me to use.....

There were quite a few familiar faces in the crowd, including Colin, former landlord of the Royal Oak in Appleby which had been the cornerstone of that festival for several years, and great guitarist, Malcolm McFarlane. There were some local musicians there, too, enthusing about the Jazz Bar's continued well being. We had a storming gig and I sold a load of CDs. We’re testing to that nice point in the tour where the tunes are playing themselves and we can really improvise coherently, following ideas through, taking chances and leaving space.

Gig 22

The Buccleuch Centre, Langholm

Beautiful theatre with a nice Steinweg piano. We played to a smallish but extremely enthusiastic audience, tables arranged cabaret style to fill the space up nicely in an informal fashion. All the staff were very helpful and into the music.

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Masterclass at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Tommy Smith - Saxophonist is the Head of Jazz here and his enthusiasm seems infectious in the department. He was most hospitable and joined the 30 or so students at our masterclass. We got a load of challenging and provocative questions:

“How did you write the piece ‘Morpheus’ to suit the title (named after the Greek god of dreams)?”

I didn’t write the piece to the title. I wrote a mercurial, romantic melody that evolved through various key centres and ideas that suggested the title.

“Why study the music of the past when there is so much new music already influenced by the music of the past?”

We all had a different take on this, but the general consensus was that researching the influences of the artists you’re listening to deepens your understanding of what they are doing and unlocks the door to develop your way with those influences.

We also painted a bit of a doom and gloom picture of the receding economic opportunities of playing jazz, and the ageing demographic of the U.K. audience. We discussed the need for the young generation to regenerate the audience through concerted effort to go to gigs and enthuse their peers outside of music students.

Our music was very well received.