Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Les Doigts de l’Homme

LES DOIGTS DE L’HOMME, THE HUB
***
With their witty pun of a name, Les Doigts de l’Homme are, evidently, a playful bunch out to entertain as much as impress. On Wednesday night, they were greeted like long lost copains by a crowd which had undoubtedly heard them last year and been won over by their Gallic charm. “We’re back by popular demand,” explained the leader. “That’s what I read in the programme. So are you the popular demanders?”
For the first-time listener, this four-piece band (three guitars and bass) seemed to be more about style than substance as it wheeched through super-fast versions of Blue Skies and Ol’ Man River, as if to prove how quickly les doigts of these particular men could operate – and possibly to compress the very late-starting first half so that it didn’t overrun.
Over at the Queen’s Hall, there was no point in organisers hoping that the gig wouldn’t overrun. With a star-studded band, in the form of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra, playing a programme of Count Basie music, there were lots of musicians to be featured and, in the second half, the ego of singer Dennis Rowland to be accommodated. And boy did he like the sound of his own speaking voice.
His slow-drawled announcements suggested that he thought this was his show, and his limelight-hogging body language – even during instrumentalists’ solos – was beyond annoying. Joe Temperley, who was conducting the band, was almost frozen out. It’s testimony to the musicians’ self-restraint that none of them biffed him when he stuck his face into theirs as they soloed. Luckily, his singing helped make up for the irritation – and, despite him, the band swung beautifully.
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