robert stuart (dazed and confused ... but happy !)
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Date Posted: 10:32:49 10/01/07 Mon
I need to write a letter to Gordon Brown. Neil & Sheila McKenna should be given some kind of award, an OBE or MBE ... no, in fact, I'll write to the Queen. Nothing short of Sir Neil and Dame Sheila will do ... even better yet, I'll write to the Pope to see if they can be cannonised ... even if they're not catholic ... I don't care. SOMETHING has to be done to recognise the selfless efforts of these folks, and the many others, who have organised this festival for the whole of it's existence. How they ever managed to pull together a line up that even the best-of-the-best jazz clubs couldn't manage, and then get them to come to Darvel on a cold autumn night, I will never know. No offence Darvel, but you rarely see New York, Las Vegas ... Darvel in the same sentence ... except maybe here !
The evening kicked off with Tony O'Malley, a mic and a Roland keyboard. That's all he needed (OK ... the drum machine got turned on later) but the lingering jangle of the keys meshed perfectly with Tony's gravelly, soulful vocals. He ran through some standards like Paul Simon's “Still Crazy”. Paul Anka's “My Way” came straight from the heart, as did several of Tony's own compositions like “When Your Love Has Gone” from the 'Oh' CD. An unexpected highlight was when Tony announced he'd been requested by the organisers to do some Kokomo stuff and that some old friends would be joining him. On came Yanto on drums, Steve Pierce on bass, Adam Phillips on guitar and Hamish Stuart on guitar. They launched into Bobby Womack's “I Can Understand It” from the first Kokomo album, which featured a blistering solo from Adam, as he cooly sat, legs crossed, on top of a Peavey combo. How do you make it look so bloomin' easy Adam ? I felt like I'd been teleported back to 1975. It was all cheesecloth shirts with big gaps between the buttons and skin tight Wrangler jeans ... and that was just the girls ! This track is a favourite of mine, and we were honoured to see and hear it being played by just about the best damned jamming band you assemble.
Next on the bill was the Ian Shaw Trio with Guy Barker guesting on trumpet. I had heard of Ian before, but had never heard him. What an absolute delight. A swooping and soaring voice, and more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek mischief, as witnessed by his brief Kate Bush impersonation. Think the offspring of Al Jarreau and George Melly meets the moodiness of Billy McKenzie and you're not too far wrong. His band were amazing as they followed his every vocal nuance. Wherever Ian chose to take them, they were there in an instant as if they were magnetically linked. Bossa Nova beat to samba to 6/8 jazz timings and all the way back again in a seamless fluid movement. You could not have forced a Rizla between Ian and his trio. Ray Charles and Joni Mitchell numbers were given the Shaw treatment, with Guy Barker firing notes out of his trumpet like bullets from a snipers rifle. Every note hit it's specific target 'dead on' every time. Oh Ian ... we could drink a case or two of you ... and then some more. Come back to Scotland soon please.
By the time Hamish and the HSB hit the stage the crowd were well warmed up. It was a delight to hear them open up with “What You Gonna Do For Me”, as I'd not heard them play that number live before. Some other HSB live classics followed like “Atlantic Avenue” with Anselmo Netto adding some delightful texture with a variety of percussion tools, 'Unspoken Love', 'Man With A Mission', 'Queen Of My Soul' and of course he once again did 'Cloudy' for his favourite lady, who despite her years and walking stick, was up and grooving with the best of them. Lang may yer lum reek Mrs. Stuart.
Hamish then welcomed Peter Cox onto the stage and the guys started with a rousing version of the Temptations 'Can't Get Next To You' which was the best version I've heard of this song since Jess Roden's Live EP from 1976'ish. Peter Cox's voice suited the choice of classic soul numbers to a tee. How could he be anything other than brilliant as he pulled the best out of the band and the backing players brought out the best in Peter's voice. His husky soulful strains burst out across the hall and we were treated to a real gem of a set within a set..
Hamish returned to the fore with a few more numbers. The blessed Ray Charles' torch song 'Just For A Thrill' was a highlight and before we knew it we had reached 'Person to Person' time with Steve Pierce treating us to some 'slap and thwack' bass playing. Eat your heart out Mark King. You sometimes forget about Yanto, as he is just so solid and dependable. No flash, no spinning drumsticks, just the best damned drummer you could ever wish to hear. The band trooped off to thunderous applause as we waited for them to return for 'Pieces'. Hamish got every player he could find onto the stage for the encore. It's a shame Pete Cox was MIA as he could really have added some great vocals to what came next. The band struck up and Hamish amazed us all by leading into Marvin Gaye's 'What's Goin On'. Tony O'Malley duetted and laid some backing keys for Graham Harvey's fantastic solo. How do you follow a band like that covering Marvin, unless it's with a rip-roaring version of 'Pieces' as the entire hall errupted and every available space was filled with dancing and folks just “gettin' down with it”.
I would never have thought that we would end the night having seen HSB back up Tony on Kokomo stuff, and then Pete Cox and then cover Marvin Gaye ... it was simply too much to take in. It was wonderful though, and we were fortunate enough to have been there. If you were there too, lucky you. If you missed it ... oh dear, oh dear, oh dear (to steal a line from David Francie).
Thanks to the organisers, thanks to the (many) performers, and thanks to the audience who made a special night even more special for all who witnessed this incredible event. Next Year ? ... Book 'em all up NOW. I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog already.