Monthly Archives: August 2010

Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Festival of Swing

FESTIVAL OF SWING, QUEEN’S HALL
*****

It may be 83 years old, but the beautiful old tune Creole Love Call is certainly getting a work-out at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival. And not only that; she’s the belle of the ball. On Tuesday, for the second consecutive night, Duke Ellington’s gorgeously smoochy ballad inspired some magical playing, this time an exquisite clarinet duet by Bob Wilber and Alan Barnes, with Howard Alden’s guitar evoking the famous growls on the original recording, and Ed Metz Jr adding a dash of the oriental with his cymbals.
Actually, it was one of many highlights of a concert which could easily have turned out to be an all-star shambles as there was no Dick Hyman this year to coral the participants (who also included saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Joe Temperley, trumpeter Duke Heitger, bassist Eric Harper and pianist Tom Finlay) into an orderly ensemble. However, what it did have was the equally senior Bob Wilber as leader, and it worked a treat.
The first set was entirely composed of Ellington and Ellingtonian numbers and what was especially pleasing was the fact that we weren’t short-changed on the full, nine-man band front: often at these all-star gigs, there are a couple of crowd-pleasing numbers by le tout ensemble at the start and thereafter it’s a series of individual soloists playing with the rhythm section.
On Tuesday, although smaller bands emerged within the bigger band, there was plenty of tout ensemble action – on such knock-out numbers as hard-swinging The Jeep is Jumpin’ and a laidback Squeeze Me, and, in the second half, on a sensational All of Me and a thrilling Hindustan, one of several tunes which stirred memories of Wilber’s great Soprano Summit band.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: An Evening With Joe Temperley

AN EVENING WITH JOE TEMPERLEY, ASSEMBLY@ PRINCES STREET GARDENS
*****

It’s bad enough that a jazz event which was bound to appeal to many older jazz fans was scheduled for a venue situated at the foot of a very steep hill, but to expect said older jazz fans to go back up the hill in order to queue to get in to that venue is just ridiculous. But that’s exactly what happened on Monday. Mind you, coping with inhospitable venues (the draughty, air-con-gone-mad Hub, the over-stuffed Royal Overseas League, the Queen’s Hall with its bottom-numbing pews etc) is something of an occupational hazard for jazz fans.
Still, once everyone was in and sitting as comfortably as they could, the Evening With Joe Temperley proved to be a wee gem. Mind you, it got off to an inauspicious start as it fell to Mrs Temperley to get up and introduce her husband along with pianist Brian Kellock.
It was billed as an evening of anecdotes and memories, and although 81-year-old Temperley did a very entertaining job of telling his life story, it could have done with an interviewer to probe him further on certain intriguing points that he merely mentioned in passing.
Kellock managed to ask a couple of questions, notably one about Frank Sinatra, with whom the Fife-born saxophonist worked in the 1970s. “Was he a nice guy?” asked Kellock. “Well,” said Temperley, “the bass player who worked with him for 20 years was leaving and as he left he said to Sinatra ‘I’m off’. Sinatra replied: ‘I don’t talk to the help.’ “
Of the musical interludes, a sublime Creole Love Call – an unexpected audience request – proved to be THE highlight of the festival thus far.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Havana Swing

HAVANA SWING, ROYAL OVERSEAS LEAGUE
****

There’s a first time for everything, as Monday lunchtime’s jazz festival gig at the Royal Overseas League proved. Never before at a jazz concert have I seen the police being called to deal with an incident of alleged assault – though given how cramped this venue is (and always has been), it’s little wonder that tempers get frayed.

The Dundee band Havana Swing was halfway through its first set of Django Reinhardt-associated and inspired music when all hell broke loose at the back of the room. As the band’s leader later said, this music does seem to attract nutters – after all, we had hecklers at the previous day’s Django gig.

As for the music? Well, it was – ironically enough – happy, jaunty, feelgood jazz executed with great panache by the quartet who seemed quite chuffed by the fact that a fracas had kicked off at one of their concerts. Among the many highlights were the snappy Hotel de Palais, which we were told “sounds very grand but was written one night when the lads were in Aberfeldy”, and the superb closers of the first set, I’ll See You in My Dreams and Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, which featured wonderful playing by clarinettist Walter Smith. Indeed, the band, which was really cooking from the get-go, seemed to up the ante even more after the drama.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Fapy Lafertin/Swing 2010

FAPY LAFERTIN & SWING 2010, THE HUB
****
Many guitarists try to play like the legendary Django Reinhardt, but the great Fapy Lafertin, who shares a Belgian gypsy background with his hero, is probably the only one who sounds exactly like him – and sounds like him in a completely natural and unforced way.
For Sunday afternoon’s performance, Lafertin – whose one-time swashbuckling look has been replaced with a more avuncular appearance – was reunited with the Edinburgh band which – as its leader, John Russell, explained – was formed 30 years ago as a direct result of Lafertin’s sensational performance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
Which accounts for the laid-back rapport between Russell and Lafertin. The band’s usual solo guitarist, Stephen Coutts, had to make way for the guest star – which made for a slightly solo-heavy opener, Djangology, as both were featured. But thereafter, everything worked as if they had been playing together for years. The dependably excellent clarinettist Dick Lee seemed particularly inspired by the presence of Lafertin, and their unison playing at the start of many of the faster numbers was terrific. By the time they got to the thrillingly fast encore, China Boy, the energetic Lee was practically bouncing off the walls.
However, it was the ballads which brought the house down. “Oh, wow!” exclaimed one woman, unaware that she was thinking out loud, as Lafertin brought the dreamy ballad Manoir de mes reves, to a spectacular climax. She was only echoing the thoughts of most of the audience, though, which was blown away by Lafertin’s uncanny musical resemblance, in every way (from the notes he chose to the manner in which he played) them) to one of the giants of jazz.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: CJO & Duke Heitger

KEN MATHIESON’S CLASSIC JAZZ ORCHESTRA & DUKE HEITGER PLAY LOUIS ARMSTRONG, JAMHOUSE
****
Ken Mathieson certainly knows how to pick his musical collaborators. Last year it was multi-instrumentalist Alan Barnes who joined the CJO for a concert of Benny Carter tunes; this year it’s American trumpeter Duke Heitger who proved to be the ideal guest star for a programme of mainly Louis Armstrong-associated music. Heitger, no stranger to Edinburgh audiences, is an excellent trumpeter with a majestic, proclamatory style of playing which recalls the great Satchmo’s sound.
On Sunday night at the Jamhouse, which this year has been given over to the traditional and classic jazz strand, the CJO and Heitger gave the audience a taste of what’s on their new Celebrating Satchmo CD, as well as such extra-Armstrong treats as Duke Ellington’s Happy Go Lucky Local.
This band seldom fails to impress – and no wonder: it has some of the best Scottish players in its front line, notably, on Sunday, Dick Lee and Martin Foster on clarinets and saxes (on Coal Cart Blues in particular). And it’s as strong on its ensemble playing as it is on its soloists’ contributions.
For his part, Heitger served up his own, inspired, takes on the “breaks” with which Armstrong dazzled listeners on such classic Hot Five and Seven tunes as Wild Man Blues, Savoy Blues and – especially – Potato Head Blues, which Mathieson, ever the wag, dedicated to Wayne Rooney.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: China Moses

CHINA MOSES, THE HUB

****
If you didn’t know much about the R’n’B singer Dinah Washington at the beginning of French-American singer China Moses’s concert on Saturday night, then you sure did by the end. It may not have been billed as a Dinah Washington tribute, but given Moses’s self-confessed “complete obsession” – and the fact that it was her Washington homage album which landed her a high-profile jazz festival gig, it wasn’t too surprising to find that Dinah was a constant presence.
Moses – glamorous, blinged up and wildly energetic (she barely stood still, and gyrated with abandon throughout the gig) – is as much an enterainer as a singer. With her vividly told, often hilarious Dinah Washington stories, she held the capacity audience in the palm of her bejewelled hand throughout the gig, and was quickly forgiven for the 20 minute-late start to the show.
Occasionally she talked too much – at the end it looked as if she might have to be dragged offstage as she was so profuse in her thanks to the audience (she even produced a camera to video her full house) – but overall, she emerged as an endearingly exuberant character whose enthusiasm and energy were refreshing.
As for the singing, well, she has a staggeringly powerful voice which just about blew the roof off on the best number of the night, Dinah’s Blues, which she co-wrote. One reason it was so appealing was that she wasn’t trying to sound like La Washington – which she did on most of the other numbers.

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