Skip to main content

Bitches Brew - Jazz and the Female of the Species

When iconic trumpeter Miles Davis released his Bitches Brew album in 1970, the record's use of electronic instruments and studio editing broke the mould for for many jazz aficionados even as it
confounded others more used to the artform being primarily a live affair captured in the moment.
Either way, it's notable that out of the dozen players that made up Davis' supergroup gathered for
the recording, not one of them was a woman. Almost half a century on, a new night for female jazz and improv musicians has co-opted the title of Davis' of-its-time opus to correct such a gender imbalance.

Co-founded in the summer of 2015 by saxophonist Sue McKenzie and double bass player Emma Smith, Bitches Brew is a bi-monthly night that takes place at the small but perfectly formed Jazz Bar on Chambers Street, across the street from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The idea was to provide a platform for female players who, despite working in a more left-field free and improv scene, can sometimes be sidelined rather than recognised as composers and players in their own right.

Despite McKenzie a veteran of Salsa Celtica and Glasgow Improvisors Orchestra, while Smith has collaborated with Gorillaz and Eliza Carthy prior to the pair joining forces as Syntonic, some promoters have presumed them and other women players to be vocalists in otherwise all male bands. There have been elements of tokenism too, with festivals fulfilling their quotas by only booking one female band.

With Syntonic, who debuted at Ronnie Scott's club in London last year, acting as house band, each night features four acts playing short sets that cover most musical bases, from electronica and groove-based excursions to looped vocals, free improv and beyond. The third Bitches Brew takes place this coming Wednesday night, and sees sets from Japanese pianist and composer, Shiori Usui, Syntonic themselves, and the McKenzie/Bamford/Linson Trio. Alt.folk singer and some time King Creosote backing vocalist ,Amy MacDougall, aka Beam, was also scheduled to appear, though illness has forced her to withdraw. Stepping into the breach will be Dj, producer and founder of Schiehallion Records, Rebecca Vasmant.

While McKenzie's turn with the McKenzie/Bamford/Linson Trio sees her making her second appearance of the night, it also introduces a cross-gender intervention into proceedings by way of the fact that both bassist Adam Linson and drummer Rick Bamford are men.

Having already been featured on BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3 programme last summer, there are plans afoot for a Glasgow Bitches Brew night, with the long term aim to go UK-wide, with potential nights in Manchester, Newcastle and London already under discussion.

With a new Edinburgh club night, Miss World, featuring an all-woman DJ line-up playing funk, disco, post-punk and electronica at the nearby Mash House venue later the same night as Bitches Brew, such a show of strength speaks volumes about how female musical talent is miles ahead.

Bitches Brew #3 takes place at The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, Wed January 17th, 9pm-11.30pm. £7/£5.
www.thejazzbar.co.uk

Product, January 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …