Mark Scobbie – Tomorrow’s Today
(own label / available from Bandcamp. CD review by Rob Adams)
For the past six or seven years, Glasgow’s fertile jazz scene has been epitomised in terms of musical ambition and cultural reach by the jazz-funk-folk collective Fat-Suit. An ensemble of indeterminate size – somewhere between eight and twenty-eight might be a safe estimate – Fat-Suit has somehow managed not just to retain musicians’ loyalties and maintain high standards but to keep moving forward.
And there on the drum stool, for the most part and across four albums, umpteen festival gigs and tours, has sat Mark Scobbie, an undemonstrative, meticulous, forceful presence who emerges on this, his first album as a bandleader, as a convincing candidate for the role of Fat-Suit’s heart and soul.
All the hallmarks of the parent band are here: brassy hooks, epic compositions, roar-to-a-whisper dynamics, crisp rhythms and exuberant improvising.
The instrumentation, in Fat-Suit terms, is slimmed down. It’s essentially a sextet of trumpet/flugel, saxophone, keys, guitar, bass guitar and drums. Rachel Lightbody, who also features in another Glasgow collective, the Elusive Tree Ensemble, adds effective wordless vocals alongside tenor saxophonist Michael Butcher’s wonderful exhortations on A Spirit and Fat-Suiter Craig McMahon contributes keys on Fly Catcher.
It is, though, a big sound when it needs to be, with Butcher, trumpeter Loïc Guenneguez and guitarist Ben MacDonald creating almost orchestral textures on the forceful Dyno and MacDonald going the full Metheny on .35 with its crunching menace. Butcher, Guenneguez and keyboardist Alan Benzie all solo with enthusiastic, vigorous and involving expression on Dyno before, in typical use of contrast, the temperature drops like a stone and MacDonald gently picks up the central theme.
Elsewhere, Conjuring shows the breadth of Scobbie’s writing with a restrained, pastoral feature for Guenneguez’s soulful playing and Fly Catcher makes great use of McMahon’s resourceful keyboard skills in its melodic onward momentum.
A thoroughly rewarding listen that has the vital ingredient of calling the listener back with often quite simple themes that register instantly and linger after the music stops.