Vin Garbutt and Duke Ellington
Posted: 20 Oct 2015
It’s over 20 years since I
last saw Teesside troubadour Vin Garbutt. I’d tried to see him a couple of
times in that period but been unable to get into already packed-out folk clubs.
A former winner of BBC Radio
2’s ‘Best Live Act’ award, Garbutt is, in his own words, ‘a shadow of his
former self’ after some serious health issues. Nonetheless at 68, his voice is
still intact, as are his senses of humour and social justice, along with
impeccable timing and ability to find fun in the complexities of language
A Teesside twang isn’t
everyone’s cup of tea but Garbutt’s charm makes it seem as warm as it is
undeniably rich and varied when he sings with such depth of passion. Many of
Vin’s, mostly self-penned, songs are about people he has known, such as
‘Teacher from Persia’ about Iranian asylum seekers he befriended in his home
town, or ‘The College’ which deals with the brutal religious education
experienced by many of his friends in the fifties.
While the subject matter of
Garbutt’s songs is mostly thought-provoking, his patter in between remains as
laugh-out-loud funny as it was when I saw him regularly in the 1980s.
Vin Garbutt has long been one
of the folk circuit’s very best artists. Starting with ‘Land of Three Rivers’
celebrating the Tees, Wear and Tyne he reminds you that the North East doesn’t
end just south of Sunderland but includes the industrial heartlands of the
steel-making area he belongs to, an industry of course suffering now as mining
and ship-building have suffered in the decades Vin has been chronicling life in
You can catch him at the
Copper Beech in Darlington on 10 December and the Normanby Hotel, Eston, Middlesbrough on 22 December. See him if you can – he’ll make you think, sing and laugh, and
that’s been his trademark for a lifetime.
Clayton Legancy Band
Celebration of Duke Ellington
Led by Alyn
Shipton on bass, and German Matthias Seuffert on tenor sax and clarinet, an
eight-piece band produced an evening high on technical proficiency but low on
momentum or atmosphere.
Hall Two of
the Sage was close to capacity, ready to enjoy the music of Duke Ellington.
Alyn Shipton is an accomplished musician and guardian of the genre. As a
long-standing broadcaster and lecturer, the current host of BBC Radio 3 Jazz
Requests has done much to safeguard the legacy of many musicians, not just Duke
Ellington. Indeed Buck Clayton, whose name forms the title of the band, was a
famous trumpeter of the Swing era.
While it is
good that Shipton carefully elucidates the title and background of every number,
the downside of this is that ultimately the show is more radio programme than concert.
It is consistently interesting and listenable but there are no high points and
no build-up of excitement. Only Ian Smith on trumpet outwardly seemed to be
enjoying himself in what, after all, was billed as ‘A Celebration.’ Beginning
with ‘Stomp, Look & Listen,’ by the end of the evening it seemed as if only
the looking and listening had been achieved.