Live Reviews

Trish Clowes and My Iris – The Blue Arrow Jazz Club, Glasgow: Live Review

Trish Clowes and her band My Iris delight an end of tour Glasgow audience, with a dazzling performance, full of emotionally connected playing, that scales every musical height.

Trish Clowes, and her excellent band My Iris are playing The Blue Arrow Jazz Club in Glasgow. It is a terrific basement venue on Glasgow’s iconic Sauchiehall Street, which has a cool vibe, with table and chairs in front of the slightly raised stage, and a very friendly bar. It is a venue that has come out of the pandemic still flying the flag for live jazz music. This gig is the final one of the current tour, which features material from the wonderful new album, A View With A Room. You can read our review of the album here.

One of the joys of experiencing Trish Clowes’ music, is the way the arrangements develop and evolve in the live setting. A reflection of inspired and finely honed improvisational skills. In addition, with Ross Stanley concentrating on the Hammond organ tonight, there is an added groove and funkiness to the playing.

The first set opens with, A View With A Room, the title track from the new album. It is a great choice to open with, enabling the band to gradually increase the tempo, as Trish Clowes’ saxophone soars over the rhythm, with its lyrical story telling tone. Ross Stanley’s Hammond solo flows and reverberates, with drummer James Maddren’s cymbal work accenting the percussive nature of the solo. Guitarist Chris Montague then unleashes a flurry of agile notes, that add another thrilling layer to the piece. It all concludes with a coda, where the saxophone, Hammond, and guitar all seem to be playing intricate phrases across each other. A compelling beginning to the set.

Time, also from the new album, is gifted with Chris Montague’s glorious blues influenced guitar solo, with hints of the great B.B. King. Ross Stanley’s Hammond solo has some great staccato idioms, with at times the band sounding quite fabulously like a high-octane Booker T. & the M.G.s. At one point James Maddren even drops one of his drumsticks, such is the intensity of the playing…. retrieving it to the smiles of the band, without missing a beat. Trish Clowes’ solo provides the pinnacle moment, seeming able to change register quite effortlessly, while delivering both quick fire and poetical passages.

Before a short set break, other highlights include a great version of No Idea, also from the new album. It has a quirky fun feel and knitting everything together is some tour de force drumming from James Maddren. His playing here is thunderous, with an incredibly inventive use of his drum kit, creating a series of rhythmic moods, ranging from frenetic to a gentle shuffle.

Ashford Days written by Ross Stanley for the great jazz pianist John Taylor, is an upbeat conclusion to the first set, propelled by an infectious bossa nova melody. Everyone is moving on stage, to the joyous rhythms, and one gets the sense that if the tables in the venue were removed, there would be dancing in the audience.

The second set commences with, The Ness, from the new album. It is one of Trish Clowes’ most evocative compositions, created in response to the work of filmmaker and collaborator Rose Hendry, who is in tonight’s audience. Earlier in the first set, the band played Abbott & Costello from the album, Ninety Degrees Gravity, which on release had an amazing accompanying video by Rose Hendry.

The performance of The Ness is full of warmth and soul, as Trish Clowes’ saxophone quite remarkably resonates with the timbre of the sea and land. Seeming to musically follow the contours of the beautiful East Neuk of Fife coastline, as expressed through Rose Hendry’s work. In one section, the Hammond organ and saxophone trade phrases, as if an animated conversation, and the audience enthusiastically applauds. Of course, the band aren’t done yet, as The Ness has a wonderful ambient finish, as Chris Montague’s guitar chimes and echoes around the venue, and Trish Clowes’ saxophone conjures up the hypnotic sound of waves gently lapping on a beach.

This and the performance of Amber, from the new album, are standout moments in a great second set. Amber is dedicated to Amber Bauer, CEO of the charity ‘forRefugees’. Trish Clowes is an ambassador for the charity, raising awareness of their work. Amber has a jaunty, energetic rhythmic pattern, that immediately engages the audience. There is a remarkable point in the performance where Trish Clowes is soloing and each of the band members seems to be playing a different part underneath the solo, and the rhythms are crossing over each other. It is an incredible moment and sounds just fabulous. It demonstrates the level of shared empathy and musicianship between the four musicians. It recalls some of the playing on Frank Zappa’s classic Hot Rats album. A high complement, and there are smiles between the band when the piece finishes.

Near the end of the second set, Trish Clowes shares with the audience the emotion being felt, of having completed twenty gigs, and the tour coming to an end. The set finishes with Free to Fall from the Ninety Degrees Gravity album, which introduces a heavier style of guitar from Chris Montague, with attendant feedback, and a progressive rock influence, underpinned by James Maddren’s skilful playing with time signatures. It underlines that there isn’t anything musically that Trish Clowes and My Iris can’t accomplish.

The reception throughout from the Glasgow audience is very enthusiastic and very warm. No wonder, as we have been treated to some astonishingly good music, played by an exceptional group of musicians, who are in complete symphony with one another. In Trish Clowes, we also have one of our most talented saxophonists, composers and fluent improvisers, and you are encouraged to seek out the new album, A View With A Room, and catch a live performance at the next opportunity. You will be rewarded with some great music, which we need more than ever in these challenging times in our world.

Photography by Lewis Allen.

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