The National Jazz Trio of Scotland is a project formed in 2007 by acclaimed pianist Bill Wells. Standards Vol.I comprises almost exclusively of Bill Wells' original compositions. However, the name, The National Jazz Trio of Scotland, is somewhat misleading as they are actually an 8 piece that don’t play jazz. But what they do play is very good.
Throughout his career, Bill Wells has worked with many musicians including his collaboration with former Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat on Everything’s Getting Older. Many more of Glasgow’s finest have been drafted in for the latest NJTOS album. Standards Vol.II features Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub, who is responsible for additional studio work and lending his voice to Winter Breaks And Back To Spring. Belle & Sebastian's Chris Geddes and Stevie Jackson also helped with recordings, both of whom have also featured on previous Bill Wells recordings.
It is this great track record of working with fantastic musicians that credits Wells for bringing out the best of the vocal performances by Lorna Gilfedder, Aby Vulliamy and Kate Sugden. Despite being newcomers, the girls contribute soft and lovely harmonies to the album which compliment the simple yet abstract tone of Wells' compositions on the album.
For example, Miyuki reminds me of the short poems from Japan, the Haiku, with it’s stark simplicity and melancholic tone accented by the xylophone, dischords on the piano and story-like lyrics.
Hillwalk paints a picture of a stroll in Wells' homeland, with a lovely and relaxing overall atmosphere carried by a series of repeating scales and ascending melodies.
The track which demonstrates the best use of harmonics on the album has to be This Is What You Could Have Won. Despite the woeful and forlorn lyrics at the beginning, the arrangement develops from the discordant piano to the silver lining modulation with an optimistic use of syncopation.
The album also features two covers: a version of the traditional Scottish folk song Mary of Argyle and a cover of the Moondog tune My Tiny Butterfly with Gilfedder, Vulliamy and Sugden singing in a round - a forgotten form of singing which is excellently resurrected by the NJTOS. Singer Gilfedder also wrote lyrics to the track Snowed In.
The album finishes with an abstract and pulsating waltz, Unexpectedly.
Standards Vol.II is The National Jazz Trio of Scotland's second release in less than a year, and I think Bill Wells has a lot of ideas which create a lot of potential for the act. Watch this space.
Standards Vol.II by The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland is out 16 Sept 2013 on Karaoke Kalk and is available on CD, LP and to download.