Two talented practitioners and experimental pioneers of jazz music appear in Shetland over the weekend of 15/16th May in concerts promoted by Shetland Arts and Shetland Jazz Club and part funded by the Scottish Arts Council Jazz Development Fund.
Saxophonist Rob Hall has carved out a notable niche in both performance and education since moving to Scotland a few years back, while pianist Chick Lyall, who also experiments with laptop electronics, has been a creative force on the Scottish jazz scene since the late 1980s.
The work they have been doing together over the past couple of years has been honed and refined and both players contributed compositions to their sessions, drawing on influences from their work in classical and celtic music contexts as well as jazz.
This musical development has resulted in a series of beautifully constructed and cleanly articulated pieces that are notably atmospheric and evocative, even to the point of verging on being classed as tone poems at times.
These formal compositions are linked by occasional brief freely improvised interludes. Rob’s use of four different saxophones, including the unusual sopranino (a sort of bent over soprano) adds variety to the sonic palette, and both players are able to find their space in the music with impeccable taste and discrimination.
For their second release on Trevor Taylor’s Future Music Records, entitled Rhyme or Reason, Rob and Chick have drawn from an extensive range of sources to form an engaging and intimate musical dialogue.
From melody driven improvisation through post-bop to classical chamber music and the influence of celtic traditional music, the duo explore a variety of approaches and formats holding composition and improvisation in a delicate balance.
New works from both musicians are interspersed with four freely-improvised interludes which stand as a connected suite in their own right. Two fully-composed movements from Hall’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano complete the programme.
Rob has performed/recorded with the likes of Mike Stern, Danny Gottlieb, Kenny Wheeler, Jim Mullen and many others. Festival appearances include Bath, Cheltenham, Glastonbury Jazz Stage, Celtic Connections, Liverpool and Edinburgh International Festival.
In 2001 the Highland Festival commissioned Rob to collaborate with two of Scotland’s leading visual artists to produce A Highland Canvas. He’s a visiting examiner/moderator for young jazz players here in Shetland and has run a wide range of music workshops.
Chick is a founder member of the acclaimed Green Room Trio and has recorded three albums under his own name, the most recent with Swedish saxophonist Joachim Milder. He has undertaken many commissions, which include works written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Jazz Composers Orchestra and numerous small scale works, and in 2004 he was awarded the prestigious Creative Scotland Award to develop a work for two pianos.
He has also written scores for film, dance ensembles and has performed as solo harpsichordist in recitals of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti. The Penguin Guide to Jazz described him as “. . . the most adventurous Scottish pianist of the current generation”.
This exciting young jazz duo can be seen at Bixter Hall on Saturday 15th May (8pm), the Lounge Bar, Lerwick (free), on Sunday 16th May (2pm) and at Lerwick Town Hall the same evening (8pm). Tickets can be purchased from Shetland Box Office (01595) 745555
Guest blog by Shetland Jazz Club secretary Jeff Merrifield