Fred Morrison – Outlands (2009)

Ugh! I’m out of my depth again. What do I know about pipe playing or any of the styles of pipe music? But I fall back on the rules I spouted earlier – that if you pay considered attention to something for long enough, even if it’s a thing you can’t do, you start to learn things about it and start to have a basis for considered opinions.

Morrison is a highly regarded player of various types of pipes and whistles. I first came across him on the excellent Transatlantic Sessions series (and isn’t about time we had another round of that?) and one of the things that was hard to miss about him was the grin seemingly permanently glued to his face.

And the music that he makes here is joyous stuff indeed. Not in the lyrics (there aren’t any) but just in the performing. The act of playing music seems to be it’s own happy end.

Morrison appeared on series 3 of Transatlantic Sessions, and that aired in 2007. One of the best performances in that series was Morrison in duet with Bruce Molsky on “Kansas City Hornpipe”. Just the two of them – pipes and banjo (sorry! Should have warned you that sort of stuff was coming), and maybe that’s where Morrison got the inspiration for this album, because the idea here is to take Scottish pipe music to Nashville. Quite literally, because the supporting cast here are mostly top notch bluegrass players – notably multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien and ace banjo player Ron Block – and they lend skilled but mostly low key support, seldom taking a turn in the spot light. (this seems to be a not uncommon approach with bluegrass players – they often don’t play more than they have to, even though they could deliver a lot more).

Despite this approach the playing is never less than top notch. Morrison most obviously with great fluidity on the various types of pipes he plays and the low whistle. The supporting guitar work especially complements the movement in the music marvelously. Only on the title track do they step out, but listen to them on the breakneck closing track “The Hard Drive” and you’ll hear how demanding this supporting role can be and how well they execute it. Just because this is “folk” doesn’t mean that these guys can’t play.

It’s interesting to read that piping, like bluegrass, has a competitive aspect to it (Morrison made his name in piping competitions before striking out as a performer and composer). This is a bit un-rock ‘n roll, reducing music to a muscle-flexing competition and all that, but what it does do is elevate the standards and skills. Bluegrass players are always excellent, and Morrison does not lack for proficiency. Everybody here is a fine player. If you thought that playing the bodhran was just beating a vellum with a funny little stick wait until you hear Martin O’Neill who plays on this disc.

The production is nothing flashy, nor does it need to be. With high caliber players such as these you need to just have a good recorded sound and they will do the rest. And the sound here is rich and accurate. Listen to the version of “Kansas City Hornpipe” that is on this disc and you will hear every note of Block’s banjo ringing clearly whilst Morrison plays the melody over the top. Listen too to their marvelous syncopations. When the guitar joins in it’s low down in the mix but still realistic and rich (and played with deceptive skill).

So what we have here is a top notch piper (no! I don’t know a lot about piping, but Morrison’s skill level and musicality are quite obvious) not just having fun with some fine players from the other side of the pond – a sort of mini Transatlantic Sessions – but positively exulting. And I think it’s infectious – that the listener (and that could be you!) will find a little of that joy transferring to them and putting a smile on their face and, who knows, a twinkle in their step.

Skill and joy. A fine combination.

John Martyn – Grace and Danger (1980)

This album was recorded in 1979 but initially held back by Island records. Label boss Chris Blackwell thought it was too painful, too loaded with personal emotion. I mention the year to try to give some idea of how quickly Martyn had moved to playing with a full band, embracing current fashions and largely eschewing the acoustic guitar.

Blackwell was right about the emotions. He knew full well that the music recorded for this album was Martyn’s response to a divorce that he seems to have not seen coming and which hurt him badly. Martyn confirmed this. More than a few “break up” albums are disowned as such by the artist, but in this case Martyn was completely forthcoming and open – despite his hurt.

Blackwell had known Martyn and his wife Beverley for years and had been generous in his handling of Martyn’s career – never forcing him into a more obviously commercial musical expression. Few labels were as supportive and as uncontrolling as Island in the 70s. Blackwell’s unease seems to have been genuine, but Martyn was right on insisting that the album be released as it was and in it’s entirety.

The other shock to the system when this album was released might have been how far Martyn had moved from his original primarily acoustic sound. He’d emerged from the Glasgow folk scene, but was never strictly speaking a folk artist. As with his idol Davy Graham folk and the acoustic guitar were just a departure point for further explorations. Indeed he signalled his interest in a bigger sound on some of his best loved albums – using drummers and keyboard players on record whilst he was also touring as a famous (and infamous) nominally acoustic duo with bass player Danny Thompson. Old fans were not amused when Martyn made an album with Phil Collins on drums and with very little acoustic guitar on it, and  his live shows in the early 80s were often punctuated by protests from those who thought he’d sold out. It wasn’t quite Dylan goes electric, but there was considerable confusion and frustration amongst the fans. And new fans too who embraced the updated sound.

And it is a very fine sounding record. Martyn and producer Martin Levan contrived a seductive, alluring and very contemporary sound. The shimmering keyboards that were hinted at on earlier albums are fully realised here. Martyn’s heavily processed electric guitar is often intriguing and sometimes kept back in the mix to add detail rather than be the focus, and he’s now operating as a soul singer – and a very good one. But it’s not the gruff soul style he adopted later – here he’s in a sweeter mode that recalls Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye. This record sounds really good on headphones, by the way.

If you didn’t know the story about the album, you might still conclude that something was up. The opening “Some People Are Crazy” is all about ambiguity, about being different things to different people. Given Martyn’s reputation as a Jekyll and Hyde character it seems rather self-knowing in the first verse (Some people are crazy about him / Some people can’t stand his face) before he starts looking outwards at other folks and the way they’ve made up their mind about him (Some people got a window to watch / Some people draw conclusions like curtains / Ah, don’t they draw them tight).

Emotionally the album is not so much a roller coaster as a storm. There’s a deluge of different emotions that speak of a man who is trying to make sense of a rather substantial shock to his system. He is boastful on “Save Some For Me”. On “Hurt in Your Heart” he seems to know only that his ex has some internal pains but there’s no indication that he thinks he had anything to do with it. He’s still in love on “Sweet Little Mystery”. He pleads on “Baby Please Come Home” and “Our Love”. He’s disdainfully angry on the title track.

In the swaggering fourth cut, a butt-kicking cover of an old ska hit “Johnny Too Bad” he changes the lyrics to turn the original song’s machismo upside down. Now Johnny isn’t the feared but stylish thug, but he’s “Walking down the road / With no blade in your hand“. Martyn reduces the macho swagger of his namesake before delivering lines that he added: “One of these days / You’re going to make your woman cry“.

This is a key track on the album and one of the strongest. With a band behind him on every track he largely eschews the echo effects that had been such a sonic signature of his, but here he uses them in a somewhat different way to lay down a noisy, thudding rhythm guitar part (on this track the keyboards are very low key) under a trademark slurred vocal. The effect is potent and engaging, and he tops it off with a short but very effective guitar solo that is very electric in tone and is full of toe-curling, ringing notes.

So the album is quite a ride, but also a heck of a performance too. And its luscious, seductive sound, emotional directness and Martyn’s strong vocal performance helped make it his best seller up to that time.

The guitar is downplayed on some tracks – one of the most cited grievances about his changed sound. But it’s not like he’s lost his chops, and when he does step out he’s very good. But this is the major difference: The mode in which he plays. The effects are nothing new, but here he plays almost exclusively electric guitar and he does so in a more conventional setting – laying down solos over backing from a band.

The band includes Phil Collins on drums. That Phil Collins. The guy who had just taken Genesis down a poppier, more commercially successful path and who would soon become a star name in his own right with a massively successful album that alienated many old fans and which had several songs that spoke of troubled or failed relationships. Does some of that sound familiar?

Martyn and Collins were a perhaps unexpected mutual admiration society and Collins doesn’t seek to dominate here despite the strong musical personality that was already starting to emerge. He’s a fine drummer and gives Martyn excellent musical support. I presume it was Collins who got bass player John Giblin involved. Giblin played in Collins’s side project Brand X, a funky jazz fusion band. His fretless bass is a key component of this record’s lush sound.

Grace and Danger is a key John Martyn album, and, many say, the last great John Martyn album. It marks his transition to an electric guitar playing band leader. He’d remain vital and restless and increasingly gave the impression that he was not so much a guitarist as a musician who just happened to operate a guitar, concerned with sound and the way he could use it to present his songs.  His vocals – which I feel are under regarded – also developed considerably, and he makes a key step forward here. It’s not exactly Solid Air or Bless The Weather (though perhaps it was hinted at by some tracks on those albums) but don’t be a stick in the mud – embrace it for the excellent album that it is and consider that in terms of the emotional honesty and directness Martyn said was always his real goal it may be one of his most successful albums.

Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here (2010)

I’d long vaguely known that Gil Scott-Heron was around and doing a sort of half-sung half-spoken politicised thing. Oh… and he had a song with the splendid title “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Full stop.

One of the great things about this day-and-age is that it’s never too late to start exploring somebody who you’ve been hearing about for years without actually hearing. I’d seen this album come up in one of Richard Haslop’s “best of” lists. I didn’t check the details properly. This is the last album that Scott-Heron released in his lifetime. 15 months after he released this album he was dead. Talk about starting at the wrong end…

Not only was this his last album, but it came after a long lay-off. He’d been very ill (he had HIV) and had had spells in jail on charges stemming from a drug conviction. Sixteen years… so much had changed in that time that this might not be that typical an album.

In any event, I have no greater context to set it in. It’s the first time I’ve given Scott-Heron a concerted listening. But I’ll tell you, I intend to listen to some more.

He’s regarded as one of the precursors of hip-hop with his half-spoken vocal style. Here he doesn’t just suggest hip-hop, he goes right out and does it. And the results are potent and impressive.

In 2010 I went to a show in London that presented a sampling of political song – both current and historic. One of the high points was Tom Robinson who did a song written by Michael Franti of Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. The song was “Language Of Violence” and it shook me with it’s power and intelligence. It made a point that maybe shouldn’t need making – that hip hop is more than just chanting “yo” and “muddafucka”, misogyny and gratuitous sexualisation.

Not that rock fans have much room for complaint: Rock has a prominent streak of sexism and sexually dubious lyrics (not to mention over-the-top clothing), but we all know it can be and is more than that. We should make the same allowances for other genres.

So here we have hip-hop with real power and intelligence. And skill. Even when Heron’s not what you’d actually call singing (because pitch is not important and is de-emphasised) there’s effective and skilful use of timing in his performances, his delivery carefully synchronised with the underlying rhythmic structure so as to allow the words, the real payload, to hit their mark.

It’s mostly  a stark affair with stripped down arrangements that offer enough but no more. After an opening monologue (backed by a looped sample of a Kanye West song) he delivers a deliciously potent and bang up-to-date cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me And The Devil”. The arrangement still works in a repeating blues lick, and Scott-Heron’s smoky baritone vocals are well judged and recorded so that they are intimate and seductive to the ear. Indeed Scott-Heron’s voice is a major sonic and musical weapon on this album – and he knows it.

“Me And The Devil” is a bit more sung than most tracks. “New York Is Killing Me” leans more towards the spoken (whilst still possessing timing and rhythm) and makes clever use of a looped sample of syncopated hand claps (as occasionally heard in 50s East Coast street music). The striking title track juxtaposes another skilfully delivered (and recorded) baritone vocal with an acoustic guitar track that reminded me of Nick Drake in his most pared down mode.

It’s all beautifully judged and delivered and very satisfying. The vocals are very much the point of it all – central to what he does and beguiling whilst also carrying each song’s message.

Or it would be very satisfying if it were just a bit longer. It clocks in at under half an hour, and about 5 minutes of that is the book-ending monologues and various spoken interludes (that don’t stay interesting as long as the music does). Another 10 or 15 minutes and he’d convince instead of leaving us thinking that we were just getting warmed up.

The quality is very high, though, and so it’s enough to work the old trick of leaving the audience wanting more – which may be the effect he wanted to achieve and certainly the effect that he does achieve.

John Martyn’s golden era – the early 70s.

My wife doesn’t like John Martyn.

Years ago I had a tape with Van Morrison’s Beautiful Vision on one side and an assortment of John Martyn tracks on the other. I loaned it to a guy I worked with. He was getting tired of what was played on the radio. When he gave it back to me he said that he’d loved Morrison but “that guy on the other side is a bit much.”

But as one of his songs went

Some people are crazy about him, some people just can’t stand his face.

Martyn cut his teeth on the Glasgow and London folk circuits but was never truly a folk musician. He certainly admired and drew inspiration from the folk canon, and he made his name as an acoustic finger-style player. But the truth is more complex, and over a multi-decade recording and performing career he recorded music and gave performances that were nothing that you’d call folk music.

Martyn was influenced by Davy Graham (whose influence was out of proportion to his low commercial profile) and the two had a similar inclination to incorporate other styles into what they were doing. We can count him amongst an interesting cluster or musicans who, in the late 60s and early 70s, combined multiple influences while also throwing something that was uniquely their own into the musical pot. Nick Drake, the Incredible String Band, Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson would be other members of the group though I don’t want to draw a line around the membership. The approach was the same in broad terms, but the results were strikingly different.

The orthodox view of Martyn is that he started out as a primarily acoustic artist with roots in Scottish folk and the blues, that there was a defining, golden era in the early 70s before he changed his sound and (have the smelling salts handy) went electric as his personality changed and he sought greater commercial success. There was a backlash from long term fans in the 80s as he de-emphasised the acoustic guitar, ended his famous and successful musical partnership with ex-Pentangle bass player Danny Thompson and fronted an electric band.

I’ve recently had a good listen to Martyn. Most of his albums that I have fall into this defining era during which he made his reputation.

Martyn is one of those artists who defies easy categorisation. I suppose that during this period (after the two albums that he cut with his wife Beverley) his work might be classified as a folk/jazz hybrid. The foundation of what he did was his finger-style acoustic guitar playing and his engaging, expressive vocals, but he was already looking to expand his range and sound and increasingly was making use of electronic effects. His rhythmic guitar style and his use of delay effects and what amounts to a forerunner of looping was groundbreaking. The impact of some of these innovations is dulled with time , and anybody starting with Martyn now might find his percussive acoustic guitar work and especially his use of a rapid echo effect (think of the Edge’s famous guitar into to “Where The Streets Have No Name”) familiar. But there are other things to hold onto – the detail in his guitar playing, the emotion of his vocals, some fine songs and a seductive ambience.

Bless The Weather was released in 1971. The mood is mostly one of mellow contentment with married life and with frustration at the way his job would keep him from home (I’m not saying this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but – Martyn was a serial philanderer). It’s a beautifully recorded album with warmth and detail in the acoustic guitar sound. His cover of “Singing In The Rain” shows his musicality and the decorations in his guitar playing. Most tracks feature Danny Thompson whose distinctive, highly accomplished double-bass playing was a significant component of Martyn’s live and recorded sound for much of the decade.

The key track amongst the predominant mellowness is “Glistening Glyndebourne” which marks the debut of the echoplex delay effects that would become his signature sound. The track was recorded largely live in the studio and Martyn was able to reliably reproduce it in concert. This is easier said now than it was done then with the effect units based on a tape loop and without the modern tap tempo feature. It’s a bit of a meandering mess, but it’s important just the same. Nobody else was doing anything close to this with echo at the time.

In early 1973 he released Solid Air, acclaimed as the definitive Martyn album and the best starting point for anybody want to explore golden-era Martyn.

He’s moved his sound on already, There’s a little more jazz in the sound, especially in his vocals which now feature a deliberate slur. “Man In The Station” and “Dreams By The Sea” are full band tracks with drums, electric guitar and keyboards. This makes me question the backlash that came his way in the 80s because he’d signalled his desire to play with a band so early and on the album which was so well received in real time.

Over the years it’s acquired a reputation as a “chill out” album, and it is often sonically beguiling and full of seductive textures: Martyn’s vocals (which are recorded so as to sound close up and intimate), the Fender Rhodes electric piano panning from side to side (Jeff Beck would use the same effect on his excellent Blow By Blow album a couple of years later), breathy saxophone, Danny Thompson’s bass. He shows off his acoustic guitar chops on “The Easy Blues” with it’s litany of old-fashioned sexual blues metaphors. The title track, Martyn’s reach out to his friend Nick Drake, sets the sensuous, laid back mood.

He works the echoplex trick again on a storming cover of Skip James’s “I’d Rather Be The Devil”. The effect is better realised than on the preceding album, and his impassioned vocal packs a big bluesy punch. There’s a drummer and a percussionist on this track but Martyn’s echo-assisted rhythm is so strong that they mainly add embellishment rather than set and control the beat.

Solid Air includes the definitive version of Martyn’s best known song “May You Never”. He’d recorded it before but hadn’t been happy with the results. This time he went into the studio with just his guitar and got a much better take. Eric Clapton, who was a great admirer of Martyn, recorded this song in 1977. Martyn said that the royalties he got from the Clapton recording exceeded the income from everything else he did..

Later that year he released Inside Out which had more experimental edge to it. Martyn produced this time and it’s a lovely sounding record. The acoustic guitar in particular is beautifully recorded.

The experimentation continues with more electric guitar, more effects (often interesting and usually very musical) and a wider range of composition. He’s stepping out as a guitar soloist too, both acoustic (the jazzy solo on “Ain’t No Saint”) and electric (his version of the traditional pipe tune “Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail”). He rolls out the echoplex to even wilder effect and adds a heavily distorted guitar part on the instrumental “Outside In”. The echo is now very much part of his sound and the improvisational aspect of the performances is growing all the time.

This wasn’t just studio wizardry. Martyn had his use of effects very well worked out – including adding multiple pickups to an acoustic guitar for live use. 1975’s Live at Leeds (yes, he did crib the title of The Who’s famous live album) is a snap shot of the famous Martyn/Thompson live act, including a nearly 19 minute version of “Outside In” which goes even further than it did in the studio and shows Martyn innovating again and anticipating and predating looping. The duo are augmented on this album by drummer John Stevens and ex-Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. But Kossoff got a guest spot during the show and wasn’t on stage for “Outside In” (indeed was totally absent from the album as originally issued) so how are there two guitar parts towards the end of the track? Martyn must have recorded and “stored” one part on tape earlier and then played it back so that he could solo over it.

This also speaks of great precision by the players. Martyn didn’t have access to the tap-tempo effects units that are common these days.

The version of Live At Leeds that I have is a later re-issue and includes extra live tracks originally left off the album. This was partly an economic consideration (Martyn had to pay the manufacturing costs himself and up front) and partly aesthetic because Kossoff didn’t play well that night. The extras you get now affirm Martyn’s original selection. The new additions aren’t nearly in the same class performance wise, and Kossoff’s soloing is sloppy compared to Martyn’s.

So there’s a four piece band on some tracks, a three piece on the rest, but really the magic is the interplay between Martyn and Thompson and their individual skills, and I can easily imagine that the two of them, with Martyn running his echo machines, would have produced a very satisfactory live performance.

The impact of Martyn’s innovations will have been diluted with time, but there was more to him than that. Certainly in the early 70s he was ploughing his own musical furrow and didn’t make many compromises. His approach to jazz from a folky starting point, his engaging vocals, the seductive productions and restless musical sensibility make him a unique proposition even now – with the caveat that like many artists who don’t dilute their work he may not suit everybody. Start with Solid Air and if you don’t like that you’re unlikely to like anything from this phase of Martyn’s career.

My copy of Live at Leeds has a second disk of live performances from later tours, many of them with Martyn fronting a more conventional band and playing electric guitar. What they show is that as far as he came in those three or four years he wasn’t anywhere near done developing.

Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy – Live At the Artist’s Den (recorded 2010, released 2011).

Robert Plant is growing old with a dignity, a continued inventiveness and a disinclination to rest on his laurels that few of his contemporaries can match.

Led Zeppelin called it a day in late 1980. By mid ’82 Plant’s first solo album was out, and he’s hardly let up since. Initially he steered clear of Led Zeppelin material and forged his own identity and brand. With the passing of time he’s included some Zeppelin songs into his live act, but the versions are never imitative. He’s also got a lot more interesting after his early albums which were in a (then) mainstream AOR style. He hasn’t got complacent with age – quite the opposite in fact.

In 2007 he had a surprising smash hit when he teamed up with the sweet voiced Allison Krauss, one of the queens of contemporary country music and a renowned bluegrass fiddler. This unlikely duo had massive success with the album Raising Sand and followed that up with an acclaimed live tour.

This left Plant with an appetite for Americana, but he didn’t try to reprise Raising Sand. The band for the tour with Krauss was built around (possibly by) Buddy Miller, another of these interesting musicians who has all sorts of irons in all sorts of fires (producer, solo artist, songwriter, ace guitar player) and who seemed for a while to be at the centre of an intersecting set of currents by which Nashville and 60s British rock came together.

Now, this all really fits in with my current interest in Darrell Scott, because Scott was one of the players that Miller recruited for the album and tour that he and Plant planned.

The resulting album was another notable success for Plant whose post-Zeppelin career has been far busier, more varied and far more successful than those of the remaining Zeps and is thus a major obstacle to a Led Zeppelin reunion tour. Plant set out to filter some of his favourite songs by other people through the sensibilities and skills of his new band, and so the album is all covers.

The album was released in 2010, and then they hit the road, touring in both the United States and Europe for the best part of a year. In February 2011 they played in Nashville and the show was filmed for the Artist’s Den TV series.

Even if you have and like the CD, you want the DVD. The performances here are much stronger and more varied and the Band of Joy reveal their full spectrum of their skills.

Scott was mostly in the background on the CD, here he gets to show great all round skills, not just on guitar but on pedal steel guitar, mandolin and banjo, and his range as a vocalist is a key element in the band’s impressive vocal punch. He comes close to stealing the show, but doesn’t actively try to usurp the limelight. When he’s not taking a solo he’s sprinkling sonic fairy dust around with his backing vocals and the ornamentation in his playing. His tremendous versatility and his considerable skills give the band a broad range.

Plant’s is the name writ large for marketing reasons – for rock audiences at least – but he gives Miller, Scott and paramour Patty Griffin (all of them recording artists in their own right) a solo spot each and plays Harmonica behind Miller and serves as a backing vocalist to Griffin and Scott. In many ways it is a band effort rather than star singer plus backing band. Given that some of the Nashville audience and media might be more familiar with Scott, Miller and Griffin than they are with Plant this may be a pragmatic approach.

Apart from the solo spots the material is split about 50/50 between Plant’s solo career (mostly the album they were touring on) and the band that Plant used to be in. The album numbers are cranked up a notch in excitement and the arrangements are more expansive. The Led Zeppelin numbers are re-imagined by the Band of Joy and acquire a rootsy, even country feel at times. This is not too jarring because Zeppelin as a band were very concious of the roots of what they were doing, but here it’s more overt. “Rock ‘N Roll” is rendered as rockabilly with Byron House slapping away at an upright bass before Scott gets in his pedal steel solos. “Houses Of The Holy” is significantly countrified – Scott is on pedal steel again – before Plant and the band start cranking up the intensity with the vocals and then suddenly Scott and Miller jump onto and slightly modify Jimmy Page’s original guitar riff and the rhythm section turn up the “hard rock” control to match. Plant has a broad grin on his face – he knows just how good this band is and he’s clearly enjoying playing with them.

It is Plant who is responsible for the only notable blooper in the whole performance when he fluff his lines and timing towards the end of “Rock ‘No Roll”, a number he must have sung many times over the years. The band catch it, cover with an extra bar and then everybody’s back in sync again. Everywhere else the performances are near faultless without compromising the band’s power and the spark of their live performance.

Their cover of Richard Thompson’s “House Of Cards” beats the pants off of the original and shows their tightness and their range as they build it all the way up, drop down to just Scott’s mandolin and then crank that sucker all the way up again.

Guitar nerds will find their eyes taken by Miller’s arsenal of unusual guitars. No Stratocasters and Les Pauls for him. There’s a baritone Danelectro (which allows him to get into an interesting space between where the guitar and the bass would usually operate), a tiny Eko octave electric guitar, and various other oddities. His one nod to convention is the use of a 12-string Gibson acoustic on “Tangerine”. But whatever he’s playing he gets great tone and, more importantly, plays to great effect. His solos are excellent, sometimes simultaneously retro and bang up to date, and in the ensemble playing he and Scott combine forces well.

The band has all bases covered. They have deep roots but they can deliver the modern, they can play delicately or with muscular power, there are top notch individual solo skills, they are versatile, they play marvellously well as a unit and the harmony vocals are impressive.

Band of Joy? Plant’s clearly having a very good time of it playing with them, and you’ll have nearly as much fun watching this exciting and fabulously skilled band in action.