Having two young children, my gig-going tends to be confined to their sleeping hours – outwith festival season, at least. So it was a real treat to be able to sneak through to Edinburgh for an afternoon of jazz that stretched well into the evening. The reason for my Sunday leave? A barely-publicised concert in the basement of Ryan’s (across from the Caledonian Hotel) by the ace American guitarist Howard Alden, whose seven-string wizardry is very familiar to Edinburgh jazz fans, and singer Jeanne Gies – a new name to Scottish audiences.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’m always wary of new singers, especially singers who are performing with much better established instrumentalists. Let’s face it, we’ve all been at gigs where we’ve wished someone would lock the singer in the ladies’ so we can hear the rest of the band better.
However, all fears were allayed when Gies revealed a cool, airy and lovely voice which was at its most appealing on ballads. Stand-outs were I’m Going to Laugh You Right Out of My Life, which set out Gies’ stall as an eloquent storyteller, a bossa nova version of My Foolish Heart, and probably the only live versions of More Than You Know and How Long Has This Been Going On I’ve ever heard performed with their exquisite verses.
On faster numbers and songs in which Gies jumped about a bit musically, her animated body language – flailing elbows and busy hands – was a little distracting. But that was the only negative in a couple of sets which also showcased Alden’s lyricism and dexterity, notably on the well-titled Tricky Little Devil and a faster-than-the-speed-of-light I Got Rhythm.
And as if that wasn’t enough, it transpired that the Sunday early evening slot (5.30pm-8.30pm) at Ryan’s is usually occupied by none other than the brilliant Brian Kellock who plays the grand piano there for three hours every week, accompanied by Phil O’Malley (trombone) and Ed Kelly (bass).
Kellock, who was recently nominated for the award of Best Jazz Musician of the year in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, was in great form – notably on a rollicking Tea for Two, an intense and hard-swinging Whisper Not and the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic Wave which was distinguished by a particularly densely layered Kellock solo (as well as by O’Malley’s lyrical trombone work).
Now, about moving the offspring’s bedtime to 4pm every Sunday …