thu 21/01/2021

CD: National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Standards Vol IV | reviews, news & interviews

CD: National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Standards Vol.IV

CD: National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Standards Vol.IV

Scottish alt-jazz institution Bill Wells continues his explorations

The National Jazz Trio of Scotland are not really that at all. With a name designed to sound like a stiffly formal unit they are, in fact, an entity based around Bill Wells, a Scottish institution, albeit an alternative one. He’s been around the block many times since the Eighties when he first started making waves with his very personally curated and individual perspective on jazz. Since those days, he’s worked with all sorts, ranging from Isobel Campbell to Aidan Moffat to Future Pilot AKA. His fourth National Jazz Trio of Scotland outing is a likeable, laid back odd-pop curiosity.

Vol. IV is intended to be the first in a series of albums featuring one singer each. The voice fronting this one belongs to Kate Sugden whose sweet, unaffected tones match the disarmingly simple arrangements. The sound accompanying her borders on easy listening but undermined by a twinkling, plinky-plonky ambient aspect. Sometimes this is foregrounded, as on “Move”, a light and poised meditation on depression, or the revolving bass patterns of “Summer’s Edge”, redolent of modern classical sounds. On other occasions, Wells and his crew create a fuller sound.

The songs that blossom into grander affairs include the brief but catchy “Tinnitus Lullaby”, a strangely effective Spartan sea shanty about the medical condition of the title, the filmic organ-fuelled opener “Quick to Judge (Don’t Be So)”, and most strident of all, “A Quiet Life”, which explodes midway through into a New Orleans brass stomp, before retreating, by degrees, to cool funk and free jazz squawking. The latter is the album’s most fascinating piece, although possibly not its most accessible.

The National Jazz Trio of Scotland are unlikely to become a mainstream phenomenon but the furrow they’re currently ploughing is, in its own unique way, poppy and welcoming.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Tinnitus Lullaby" by National Jazz Trio of Scotland

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