The James Taylor Quartet, ABC Glasgow, 21st February 2018

Since I became a jazz music convert, I have been looking for another live concert to follow the incredible experience I had attending a gig at the Glasgow Jazz Festival last year.  Several months ago I saw an advert for the James Taylor Quartet coming to the ABC.  I wasn’t really familiar with them, so I consulted my jazz guru (aka my cousin Adam) who described them as “funky mofos” so of course I bought a ticket.

On arrival at the ABC I was disappointed to find that the gig was in the smaller hall.  There also must have been some issue with the planned support band, because instead there was a DJ playing.  I had arrived quite early, due to coming straight from dropping the girls off and wanting to get in out of the cold, but I had come on my own so didn’t relish the idea of sitting soberly alone listening to a (admittedly good) DJ, while everyone else was drinking and chatting.  Luckily I bumped into someone I know, so that helped pass the time until the main act came on.

At first the audience hung back, a large semi-circle forming in front of the stage.  After a few numbers we were encouraged forward.  We were at the front and remained so, getting up close to the action.


They were indeed funky mofos.  James Taylor himself was on the Hammond organ and occasional vocals, the rest of the quartet made up of vibraphone, bass and drums.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the gig, and to be honest so far in my jazz journey I’m not a huge fan of the Hammond organ, so going to see a Quartet with an organ-playing band leader could have been a disaster, but they were such incredible musicians, it was fascinating to see them at work in such close proximity.

The range of pieces they played swung from the slower, soulful end of the spectrum to the cinematic 70s soundtrack end with a good helping of energetic jazz-funk in between.  Apparently one of their signature tunes is the theme from Starsky & Hutch.  The crowd went mad for this, and we were encouraged to sing along “ba-da-ba-ba” style.  Now I have never seen a single episode of Starsky & Hutch and only vaguely recognised the theme tune.  I felt quite exposed right there in the front not having a clue what was going on, but thankfully the rest of the audience carried it.

As was to be expected from such an established band, the musicianship and skill on show was first class.  In true jazz style, each got their turn to showcase their talents, either playing solos or 2 members holding back while the other 2 took their turn to shine together.  All were phenomenal.

I enjoyed the music more than I thought I would.  Given that it wasn’t the flavour of jazz that I have most gotten into, the live experience spoke to me in ways I hadn’t anticipated, even if it didn’t quite elicit the same raw emotional response that Nerija did.  Saying that, on more than one occasion I wished that JT was playing a piano instead of the organ.  I know that would have made for a completely different outfit and would not have suited the style of music they play, but the stage set-up meant that he was almost completely obscured by the organ itself, we couldn’t see him actually playing it, just the top of his head bobbing up and down behind it.  I kept thinking that if it was a piano, and we could see his hands, I would have a much greater appreciation of the skill involved in producing the sound.  But that is probably my ignorance as a novice to this genre showing through and I apologise to the hardcore JTQ fans who wanted to kiss his hands after the performance.

Luckily I was able to focus my attention on the rest of the band, and particularly enjoyed watching the vibraphone player.  As someone who tried playing tuned percussion back in the day and could manage very well with 2 beaters, but turned into a fumbling buffoon with 4, I applaud anyone who can make 4 beaters dance around the notes and produce an intricate, complex melody without dropping anything.  The bassist was the funkiest mofo of them all, and the drummer was of course mesmerising to watch.  As I slowly but surely make faltering progress playing standard rock, the elegance, finesse and artistry of jazz/funk drumming is the epitome of beauty on the kit which I can only dream of replicating.


So all in all a good night, where I stepped out of my comfort zone a touch, but was rewarded by seeing one of the UK’s most experienced bands perform a highly engaging and immersive set which both awed and inspired me.

Laura Marling, ABC Glasgow, 10th March 2017

It’s been too long since I saw some live music.  I have been keeping an eye out for upcoming gigs but all the interesting ones were mid-week or Sunday nights which are just too difficult for me to get to.  I saw Laura Marling listed, it was on a Friday, but by the time I thought about it, it was sold out.  I’ve been aware of Marling’s work for years, and have heard her frequently on the radio, more recently on BBC 6 Music but I don’t think I have ever purposefully listened to her albums and have certainly never bought any of her records.  However I had a passing familiarity with her work, and she was one of those artists I always felt I should check out more.   So the gig wasn’t one I was desperate to go to, but once I found it was sold out I kinda regretted not going for it.  Then I saw a message saying she endorsed Twickets as an official ticket re-sale site, to help fans pass on unwanted tickets without going through touts.  I signed up and having missed out on a few that came up, I saw an alert for one just as I was leaving work on Friday.  Luckily it was going for face value, so I snapped it up and was pleased to have unexpected plans for a Friday night and to be heading back out among the Glasgow live music scene.

I got to the ABC just as the support was coming on, and thankfully early enough to grab a space on the raised platform in front of the bar.  Support came in the form of Ethan Johns, who, it turns out, is a  big-shot record producer, but who came across as every bit the kind of musician whose guitar is as much a part of him as his beard.  He was accompanied by a fiddle player and had apparently “borrowed” Marling’s bassist and drummer.  They played solid folk tunes, at one point I thought he had a distinctly Bob Dylan-esque quality but then it occurred to me perhaps it was a Dylan cover. Yeah, i know, I call myself a music fan but I couldn’t recognise a Dylan song if it bit me in the backside. I’m not a Dylan fan, alright? Moving on…. They were good – relaxed, confident and engaged with the growing audience well.


Ethan Johns


The ABC can be a bit soulless, so I was glad it was a sell-out show because the crowd filled the space with energy and anticipation.  Soon Marling and her band came on stage, which was bedecked with floral arrangements. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Marling was dressed in a full-sleeved white dress, akin to a 1970s wedding dress.  She had the appearance of a blonde Barbara Jean and I half expected her to succumb to some ailment and have to be wheeled off. On the contrary, once she started singing she exuded an inner strength that allayed all my movie-influenced fears.

She opened with the sparse but beautiful Soothing, the first track on her new album, Semper Femina, which was just released that very day.  In fact, we heard several songs from the new album, which may have disappointed fans hoping to hear their old favourites, but it suited me just fine.

Marling was accompanied by aforementioned bassist and drummer, as well as a guitarist and 2 backing singers. However, it was all about Laura. She took centre stage, barely straying from her mic stand, guitar in hand.  I hadn’t realised what an accomplished guitar player she is, absolutely phenomenal.  Her vocals and acoustic guitar were the focal points of the whole concert, her band providing subtle layers of depth and body to the songs, but never overpowering or upstaging her.  The backing singers are sisters, we were told, and had that unique ability to harmonise sublimely that people who are genetically linked do.  I was most impressed with her drummer, who provided percussive accompaniment which was perfectly fitting – understated, restrained yet skilful, intricate and varied.


Laura Marling and band


In the middle of the set, Marling performed a few songs solo, before being rejoined by her band.  She spoke a little to the hall, but only very briefly each time and mostly saying thanks and asking if we had heard the new album yet.  Although she sang from the heart and was expressive in her vocals and guitar performance, there was little outward sign of the emotions and sentiments she was conveying.  Apart from the odd wistful upwards gaze, she was almost motionless.   Even on the more upbeat songs, neither she nor her band really let loose. I got the impression that the audience would have been up for a bit of a party, but it never really got to that level.  They did play for almost 90 minutes, before reminding us that The Laura Marling Band (she/they did refer to themselves in the 3rd person several times…)  didn’t do encores, and that was that. Off they went.

Despite those little idiosyncrasies, it was a thoroughly enjoyable show.  My lack of intimate knowledge of her back-catalogue didn’t hamper my ability to immerse myself in the songs and having grown somewhat tired of indie-rock music it was good to reconnect with a simpler, purer, form of music.  Laura Marling in an incredible songwriter, singer, musician and performer and in this week that saw the world mark International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise and celebrate an artist like this.

So thanks to the fellow who couldn’t make it and passed on his ticket and hooray for spontaneous decisions to go out to gigs. Never a bad thing.