Alison Bentley previews the gig and CD recording by the Alison Rayner Quintet at the Vortex on Tuesday 13th August 2013
Is this a first? A female British bass-player making her debut recording of her own compositions- live? Alison Rayner has been given a prestigious Jazz Services subsidy to record her Quintet (ARQ) gig at the Vortex on Tuesday 13th August. Although she’s written for other people’s bands (and you may even have played some of her compositions on the Rockschool syllabus!) this is the first time she’s put out an album under her own name. ‘Last year I was 60, and I thought- if I don’t do it, I’ll never do it!’ Rayner usually plays electric bass half the time, but on this gig she’ll be playing just double bass, on acoustic arrangements of her pieces.
Hyperbubble, with its joyous funk, was originally written for guitarist Deirdre Cartwright‘s band. Cartwright brings her effervescent Grant Green/Emily Remler-influenced sound to this gig too. The versatile Buster Birch will be drumming: from gentle brushwork to big grooves. Who were Rayner’s influences? ‘When I first played electric bass, probably Jaco Pastorius. I started playing in 1976 and that was the year he joined Weather Report, released a solo album and played with Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell.’ Rayner’s Vejer, originally recorded with the Vortex Foundation Big Band, is a modal piece in 5, with Spanish overtones and beautiful instrumentation. (She admires Mingus’ big band writing.) Diane McLoughlin brings Eastern ornamentation on sax. (Her big band Giant Steppes took inspiration from Balkan musical traditions.) There’s some Paul Chambers/Coltrane influence in the free parts of the piece, too.
The gig will feature some new Rayner pieces, including one written for her father’s funeral: ‘I’ve listened to a lot of Charlie Haden in the last few years- he has a piece which is almost like a hymn. I love his playing- he’s very soulful and simple, lyrical and melodic.’ Scott LaFaro and Bill Evans Live at the Village Vanguard has also been a big influence, and Steve Lodder‘s sensitive, brilliant piano adds another colour to the band. (He’s perhaps best known for his work with Andy Sheppard.)
There’s a tune from the 80s, Rayner’s time with the iconic all-women Guest Stars. So have things become easier for female musicians since then? ‘…attitudes are different for women these days- a bit- but I think they haven’t changed half as much I thought as they would.’ Rayner contrasts the ease of modern recording with the Guest Stars’ 80s vinyl output: ‘… it was hugely expensive- we borrowed thousands of pounds and that was a lot of money then.’ Why a live recording? ‘I love gigs and I love live recordings- the Who Live at Leeds, Jaco Pastorius’ Live in Japan, Pat Metheny’s Travels …It somehow felt like a nice, accessible way of doing it.’ Rayner’s gigs always have a warm atmosphere and strong rapport between the musicians. Be there and be part of the recording.