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coverpic flag Scotland - Full Moon 219 - 07/12/14

The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland
Standards Vol.III
Karaoke Kalk

Facts about The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland (TNJTOS) first: They don't play jazz, nor are they a trio! Musician and composer Bill Wells is the head of TNJTOS. He has played and collaborated with almost every notable player from the Scottish indie scene: The Pastels, Norman Blake (from Teenage Fanclub), Isobel Campbell (ex-Belle & Sebastian), Aidan Moffat (from Arab Strap), Future Pilot AKA, and Duglas T. Stewart (from BMX Bandits), and Wells' had his Bill Wells Octet. He's had the project Phantom Engineer, along with John Hogarty of BMX Bandits and David Keenan of Telstar Ponies, and he's collaborated or performed with Kevin Ayers (on his final album), the late free improv sax player Lol Coxhill, the American indie pioneer Jad Fair, German electronic artists Stefan Schneider (from To Rococo Rot) and Barbara Morgenstern, the Japanese naivists Maher Shalal Hash Baz, and many, many more. Wells has been 'part of' the Scottish jazz scene, or more 'around' since the late 1980s. Wells is not a part of the jazz establishment. They seem to overlook him, or not to take him in inside. Not that Wells seem to mind - his project's band name might be his way of blowing a raspberry: "I beg to differ," he responds. "I think in the short term it's making life a bit harder, but hopefully in the long term it will make it stand out."

The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland are Bill Wells (on bass, guitar, piano, samples), with three singing lady friends: Aby Vulliamy (vocals, and viola), Kate Sugden (vocals, and marimba), and Lorna Gilfedder (vocals). When playing live the band includes guitarist Norman Blake (of Teenage Fanclub), vocalist Gerard Black (from Babe, a four-piece electronic pop group based between Glasgow, London, Brussels and Bordeaux), Stevie Jackson (from Belle & Sebastian) and Robert Henderson. And, probably several other players as well. TNJTOS' debut, The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland's Christmas Album (Karaoke Kalk) came in 2012. Standards, Vol. II (Karaoke Kalk, as well) was released last September, and here's III. They for sure grab titles from the jazz world, as well. The platter holds ten tracks (nine Wells originals, plus Beach Boys' "With Me Tonight"), and the songs are indeed comfortable stuff. TNJTOS remind me somewhat of the fragmented and abstract pop music of the Raincoats back in the 1980s. Light-footed, playful stuff, exploring some mystical, mythical musical path. Other songs of theirs have a proud and majestic sway, such as opener "Alive And Well", "Buchanan Street", "Getting Out", "Rare Species", "Unguarded Moment", and "Suprising Word". This is highly eccentric, enchanting, and slowly evolving music. It's for sure a fascinating listen. This is on the same cool wavelength than Laetitia Sadier and Robert Wyatt. Welll, the influences range wide: From bossa nova, via electronica, to simple piano accompaniments (a la Brian Wilson), to a broader vocabulary of chord changes (' in the songs of Laura Nyro, and in Todd Rundgren's earlier work...', according to one Mike Barnes, for Karaoke Kalk). Check it yourself. Highly recommended, if you're looking for some vocal pop band chill vibe.

"I do seem to like a sparser sound," Wells admits. "For one thing, I'm not that keen on drums. There are no drums at all on Vol. II. I relented a bit on Vol. III, but even then there's not that much. I like things kind of light and airy. As long as they are moving along nicely and you can hear the chords, and the voice is well supported, I think that's about all you need."

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