Review: Bobby Wellins in Glasgow




With Stan Tracey absent due to illness, Bobby Wellins raised spirits in a storming set with substitute pianist Paul Harrison, reports Anthony Troon

The prospect of hearing Stan Tracey and Bobby Wellins (pictured) – those two grand old stagers of British jazz – attracted a sizeable audience to the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on Sunday 30 June. But Stan had been taken ill and was unfit to travel: such bad news about an octogenarian treasure put a damper on the event.

Wellins raised spirits in the best way he knows by playing a storming set with the admirable Paul Harrison (apparently Stan’s choice) sitting in at the piano and proving again that Stan knows his onions when assessing talent. Now in his 30s, Paul was a young prodigy and is very active on the Scottish international jazz scene (SNJO etc). He provided very much what this quartet required from the keyboard – lucidity and some adventurous harmonic diversions.

With the astonishingly expressive and articulate Andy Cleyndert on bass and propulsive drumming from Clark Tracey, the group gelled quickly: but the last-minute change of pianist, and with Bobby suddenly promoted from guest to leader, any planned programme of songs probably had to be ditched.

The quartet opened with an improvised blues to get things settled, Wellins playing in a sparse and economic style with that crafty sense of timing that drives the pulse forward. Harrison’s solos were resplendent with boppish phrasing and lavish runs, standing in contrast to the saxophonist’s lean lines. Taking Monk’s Mood as a duo, this pair’s level of understanding was truly exhilarating.

One of Clark Tracey’s thundering drum solos turned intriguingly into an exchange of ideas with Andy’s resourceful bass playing: for these were four players with a shedful of options. My Funny Valentine, opening out of time, blossomed into a warm ballad with chunky, quirky tenor and piano/bass conversation. Closing with a very fast Lover Man, Bobby Wellins left a happy bunch of his countryfolk – but all thinking too of the missing Stan. Earlier, supporting duo Steve Hamilton (p) and Paul Towndrow (ss) played a very cerebral set of originals such as Cryogenics, nicely crafted and featuring unexpected intervals. Closing though with Ray Noble’s The Very Thought of You (from 1934) was a neat touch which brought the audience back into their comfort zone.

Photo by Brian Payne


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