A death in the family – no, Amy Winehouse was no relation – meant that the great gypsy guitarist Fapy Lafertin, a musician who has performed at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival at regular intervals in its 33-year history, had to cancel his appearance on Saturday night, but the concert he was headlining went ahead nevertheless.
It may have lacked the swagger and star quality that the charismatic Lafertin brings to proceedings, but there was still plenty of that gypsy passion and colour in evidence in the form of his guitarist cousin, Lollo Meier, and, especially, the young, blind violinist Tcha Limberger. This band, including Lafertin, is often billed as “gyspy jazz royalty” and it on Saturday it was easy to see why: there’s a real sense of history and authenticity about these players who grew up in a similar culture to their musical – and gypsy – forefather, Django Reinhardt.
Although Meier – who looked, from halfway back the Spiegeltent, like Errol Flynn (appropriately enough: his cousin looks like George Brent) – produced dazzling solos, especially on a finger-busting Japanese Sandman, it was Limberger who held centre stage and had most opportunity to impress the audience with his lyrical, loose and virtuosic violin playing.
His vocals were a different matter – I Surrender Dear started out promisingly, with Limberger singing quietly, violin still tucked under his chin, in a manner reminiscent of Chet Baker. But as he began imitating a trumpet and veering from very loud to very soft, the initial charm wore off – and the effect, though enthusiastically received by much of the audience, was a bit like a deranged hyaena singing the blues.
(First published in The Herald, Monday, July 25th)