Strangeness and Charm: Reviewed

Last night, Jazzworks presented an evening of Strangeness and Charm, both in name and in nature. This is the only event to be put on by Jazzworks this On The Rocks, and I can only say what a true shame that is. Although Venue 2 lacks the intimacy of a smoky bar and the charm of, well, any charm, Jazzworks inspired woops and cheers from the crowd with their evening of relaxed jazz.

Starting the evening off (late, it must be noted) was the very fresh faced ‘Time Changes’. The humorous young group led by trumpeter, Cameron Duncan, and consisting of Greg Irons on drums, Fergus McCreadie on keyboard, Oliver Eve on saxophone and Ben Watt on bass, are evidently chock full of talent. They are all part of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra and came along last night to belt out some of the best known jazz numbers, just for fun. Though clearly the under-age equivalent of seasoned pros, it seemed that these guys needed a moment to find their feet after the first song could only be described as average. However, their second number hit the right note and things only got better from there. I think a particular mention must be made of their rendition of a Charlie Parker number and the fantastic solos all round. Interestingly, this song was the only time I saw them smile, because if I had one complaint, it would be that they looked pretty miserable throughout and I wish they had had more fun with it. That being said, I think the phrase ‘promising young talent’ would be entirely apt.

For the main event of the evening, Strangeness and Charm took to the stage led by Richard Ingham; a man who has been described as ‘an all-round musical wizard’ and is known for ‘braving the chromatic scale on the penny-whistle, and replacing an entire string section with duelling melodicas’. Take that as you will. The former Professor of blew his own horn and showcased some of his very own musical compositions, with the help of Marrten Verbraeken on trumpet and flugelhorn, Fraser Burke on keyboard, Kenny Irons on bass and Andy James on drums. From the very start, it was clear these guys didn’t need a warm up. Although I’m not remotely qualified to say so, they played their instruments with talent and flair and blew away the building dust in Venue 2. While I can appreciate their talent, this was more jazz for jazz fans than the layman like me. So much so that they had that slurred effect on the piano, which makes it sound as if the piano itself is drunk, a marker for modern jazz. With an average age 25+ years on ‘Time Changes’, these guys weren’t shy keeping with the times.

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There is nothing like an event in St Andrews which makes you feel as if you’re not in St Andrews. And this is what Jazzworks has pulled off here, in the union of all places. The display of talent was impressive and I was thoroughly impressed. I was also slightly embarrassed by the poor show of students. Is jazz just not popular with young people today? While the student body wasn’t absent by any means, there were seats to spare and I would hope to see more undergrads turning up to such fun and different event. I would like also to make a special mention of the host of the evening. I didn’t catch his name but his light-hearted comedy was appreciated by all. Thank you Jazzworks, and thank you On The Rocks, this was a great display of what a simple, but well executed night of jazz can be. 

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