Day 436 - Alan Gorrie: Blue Workshop
The lead track on the brand-new EP from Average White Band mainstay Alan Gorrie is a soulful love letter to Perth's iconic Blue Workshop. Its Sunday night sessions at The County Hotel in the mid 60's mixed soul, jazz and R&B and was a crucial melting pot and meeting point for the nascent Scottish music scene.
Average White Band play Perth Concert Hall on Thu 11th Nov.
The premise of the whole EP grew out of a tribute I wanted to pay to Perth's Blue Workshop, a musicians' jamming club that ran from 1964 to 1967 in the County Hotel fortnightly on Sunday nights. It was Lawrie Hamilton's brainchild, and he roped me in on its founding, so that there might be a guaranteed crowd: my group The Vikings being the local R&B draw, ensured The Jazzers would get a fair (and young) hearing that otherwise might not have materialised if it were just "The Perth Jazz Club", say.
As Lawrie was leader of The Free Four, that automatically meant the late Bill Kemp was omnipresent on drums, and he brought in Iain Mathieson on piano (Kenny Fraser had migrated to Blantyre to work for Rolls Royce) and Jim Mullen on bass, as Ron Elder was otherwise engaged. My being at Dundee Art College meant that I ran into both Roger Ball and Molly Duncan, so I lost no time getting them up to The Workshop, and as Jim had brought along Bobby Wishart (Scotland's pre-eminent tenor sax player) and Davy Huxtable (trumpet). We now had a formidable horn section and soloists galore.
Other notables came on irregular bases - Andy Park (of BBC fame), Alex Sutherland from Aberdeen, and then the 'under-aged' Robbie McIntosh boy-wonder on drums, from Dundee. And so the time-stamp and loose template for what would years later become the Average White Band was in place, with us four Taysiders keeping a candle burning for this, our first heady mix of jazz, soul and R&B music running through our veins. Hence the groove of this title track being in the rough mould of Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock etc. that was our collective touchstone back then in the Sixties.
The other tracks have both a reflective mien and, as they were all recorded during lockdown, a vaguely hopeful element - the Memphis' blues of Wait And See. The opener, Music, is a casting-call romp through all the important musical genres during my lifetime, and their transient and temporary viability, all set to a blatantly late 70's New York dance track, for a fun base. Our sax player, Cliff Lyons sent me a wonderful Brecker Brothers-style horn chart and a true 1970's blazing alto solo.
Take Me Back is my hat-tip to Eco Soul, my term for the category first established by Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On and many other milder 'injustice' songs from Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes to name but two. I managed to squeeze in a few of my pet peeves as icons of climate change and to pay some vocal respects to the kind of heroes that have driven me on through the years.
Altogether a solo labour of love, to keep me out of mischief while temporarily laid off by the pandemic and to keep some of my chops in shape for what should be the band's restart this autumn, restrictions and public recovery permitting. As Wait and See says, "There may be miracles ahead".