Tonight’s gig was very special indeed. Not only because it was set in one of Scotland’s legendary Jazz locations, The Blue Lamp, but because this was only one of two gigs that Norman Willmore’s sextet would perform. Made up of highly acclaimed musicians from around the country, Drummer Corrie Dick and Laura Jurd on Cornett, both members of the Mercury-nominated band, Dinosaur. BBC Traditional Musician of the Year, Amy Laurenson playing piano, Laura Wilkie on fiddle and Brodie Jarvie on Double Bass, who is an integral part of the Scottish jazz scene.
A quiet and unassuming figure Saxophone player Norman Willmore is without doubt one talented individual who brought this group together to perform a repertoire that was freshly composed and arranged by Willmore himself. Including Swedish tunes along with Shetland staples and even an American folk tune. Most of the night’s tunes were picked off Willmore’s new album ‘For All Your Needs (Voar, Simmer, Hairst, Winter)’ which was out the day of the gig.
Opening the night up was Norman with Dick on drums to perform three tracks from a little side project they both had going on. The first track was a Willmore penned smooth jazz number that flowed nicely with intricate notes tripping over each other with a Middle Eastern flair and some seriously well crafted drums throughout. A perfect start that Willmore followed up with a seductive Swedish bagpipe tune with some added bass drone backing and restrained sax notes. The final tune from this duo was an American folk track called Blackest Crow distilled down to just sax and drums without losing the track’s magic.
The full band now joined to much applause as Willmore introduced the first tune, Da Day Dawn, one of the oldest known fiddle tunes from the island of Shetland, to be played at the coming of the new year. A tune that allowed each instrument to show what they bring to the band, especially the cornet from Jurd who complimented Willmores Sax perfectly.
Staying in Shetland we were now treated to a Bedding Tune which really picked things up and you had to appreciate the sound man at this point to give each instrument a unique voice and perfectly balanced within the mix. Wilkie really added a touch of Celtic colour with her fiddle playing on this unnamed Scottish reel and in fact some real magic was created as the whole band got lost within the grooves of the music.
After a quick break, Willmore was joined on stage by Pianist Amy Laurenson as they introduced a tune from the island of Unst where their Grandmother lived. Evoking layers of Scottish mist with the slow beginnings of the track it soon flipped into a jaunty dance to huge smiles from the audience.
A couple of Irish tunes with the fiddle taking a particular lead were performed next before the band moved to more atmospheric pieces that had a more angular experimental feel to them. Interesting percussion added to the free time flow that dragged each instrument till a coherent tune emerged only to be dashed again into a jazz rabble with crashes and wallopes from the drum corner.
We were introduced to the band once again with each getting a rousing round of applause and much love from Willmore himself to each member. A short introduction to a tune named after a Shetland fishing port ‘Broonies Taing’ where Willmore confessed to having many happy memories. The cornet steals the show with an ear-grabbing run of notes that was hugely appreciated by the crowd.
A Swedish tune was picked to end the night that was cold and haunting with rolling thunder courtesy of the percussive genius drummer and a nervous energy as Willmore’s sax shouted and wailed as the song came to a cracking close. What a way to end.
So good that the audience wouldn’t let them end this way and the demand for one more song was made known. Sadly as the band had only been together for such a short time they had no more tracks within their repertoire to perform to Willmore and drummer Dick returned to the stage to perform one last track with Luara Jurd jumping in to add a touch of her magic.
A wonderful candle lit evening that was friendly and filled with laughter and superb tunes made all the more special due to the short nature of the project and performance. Whatever the future holds Norman Willmore and the other musicians are well worth checking out on their future work.