Responses to the archive part 1
As a cultural historian, I love digging around in archives and piecing stories together. I've dug up some real treasures for Jazz At The Third Eye, but a major aim of the project is to show that archives are not just of historical interest, as valid as that it is, but can provide inspiration to artists today. In order to create a dialogue between Scotland's cultural past and present, I've commissioned responses to the archive from some of the country's most innovative contemporary musicians, poets, actors and artists. A number of these are being cooked up in bedrooms and home studios, but we also wanted to record some performances at the Third Eye's current incarnation, the CCA.
Last week, I took a handful of artists into the CCA theatre space, aided by sound technicians Kier Long and Julie McGinley. Here are some sneak previews of their pieces.
Caroline McKenzie: Musical Graphics
Caroline McKenzie, aka Beth Gripps, is an under-recognised legend of Scottish underground music, with an extensive catalogue of recordings going back to the mid 90s. A self-styled musician and sound mixer/shaper/processor/destroyer, McKenzie works with voice, guitar, piano, synth, dictaphone, radio, computer and objects to create works that explore drone, noise, music concrete and song. When I presented her with a selection of material from the Third Eye archive, she gravitated to the Musical Graphics exhibition of 1977, using its programme as a graphic score. Curated by Lilian Touraine, Musical Graphics was the first exhibition of its kind in the UK, presenting scores from Mozart to John Cage. Caroline's piece is an electro-acoustic tour-de-force of overlapping voices, tape and radio interference.
Kapil Seshasayee & Diljeet Kaur Bhachu: Lol Coxhill & GF Fitz-gerald
Kapil Seshasayee's music fuses the microtonal inflections and intricate rhythms of Carnatic music with math-rock, post-punk and r 'n b. His second album, Laal, drops later this year, following a series of remixes and a collaboration with rapper Lil B. Read more in my interview with him from last year. Dr Diljeet Kaur Bhachu is a musician, educator, researcher and activist based in Glasgow. Diljeet is one half of flutes/taiko/electronics duo Velma, with Georgie White. She is in the live band for Kapil Seshasayee, and features on his debut album A Sacred Bore (2018). She also improvises and writes for her own solo project with flutes and electronics and is currently writing her debut album. You can read some of Diljeet’s poetry in The Colour of Madness, a BAME Mental Health anthology published in 2018.
For Jazz at the Third Eye, Kapil and Diljeet are responding to the music of legendary saxophonist Lol Coxhill and experimental guitarist and singer-songwriter G.F. Fitz-gerald. The duo played the Third Eye in 1976, following successful dates at the Edinburgh Fringe. A live recording, Echoes of Dunedin, is available from Reel Recordings. In the above clip, you can see Kapil laying down a feedback guitar track, to which further layers of guitar and flute are added.
Below: promotional material for Lol Coxhill and GF Fitz-gerald from the Third Eye Archive.
Tam Dean Burn & Una McGlone: Tom McGrath
Actor Tam Dean Burn previously brought the poetry of Third Eye founding director Tom McGrath to life with Electric Contact: A Jazz Tribute to Tom McGrath at the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival 2017. For Jazz at the Third Eye, he teamed up with his Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra and Ferlie Leid collaborator, bassist Una McGlone. Check out a brief extract from their bravura performance, which cuts up elements from McGrath's writing, including his 1971 sequence Buddha Poems.
Tony Bevan: tribute to Derek Bailey
Tony Bevan is a major saxophonist on the UK scene, having collaborated with Sunny Murray, Derek Bailey, Joe Morris, Dominic Lash, Mariam Rezaei, Otomo Yoshihide and many others. Since moving to Glasgow a few years ago, he's run the fortnightly Help Me I'm Melting sessions at the Old Hairdressers, where he teams up with an evolving cast of improvisers from Glasgow and beyond. The event returns from its Covid imposed exile on Saturday 2 October: not to be missed!
Tony began working with Derek Bailey in the 1980s, after the legendary improvising guitarist invited him to play one of his Company events. He went on to become a regular collaborator and a member of Bailey's last working group, Limescale. It seemed natural, then, to ask Tony to respond to the Bailey material in the Third Eye archive.
Bailey played the Third Eye's immediate precursor, the Scottish Arts Council Gallery on Blythswood Square in 1973. Ten extraordinary minutes of that gig survive thanks to Tom McGrath's early adoption of video technology. Bailey subsequently returned to Glasgow for concerts with Steve Lacy, finally performing at the Third Eye in 1989 with a Company trio of pianist Alex McGuire and a 15 year old Alex Ward on clarinet.
Bear in mind the videos don't have the full sound recording - the final versions will be presented in all their professionally recorded stereo glory!
There are more commissioned pieces to come, so watch this space...