Review: Tam White Memorial Concert

Tam White – A Night of Celebration, Pleasance Theatre Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, Sunday October 16th ****

As the singer Liz MacEwan noted in her moving speech at the Scottish Jazz Awards earlier this year, the Edinburgh singer/stonemason Tam White – who was being inducted into the Scottish Jazz Hall of Fame – was someone whose life touched many others, and from many different backgrounds. Even within the music world, he straddled so many genres – what John Byrne described as “down ‘n’ durty rock’n’ roll”, blues and, to a lesser extent, jazz – that any event celebrating his musical life was bound to be a diverse and colourful one.

And Sunday night’s memorial concert – the first “formal” memorial since White’s sudden death in June 2010 – certainly lived up to those expectations. Organised by two of White’s closest musical pals, pianist Brian Kellock and guitarist Neil Warden, it brought together musicians from across the board – a veritable Who’s Who of the Edinburgh scene – and attracted a sell-out audience.

A dynamic set by the Dexters, White’s band from the 1980s, led by MacEwan, whipped the crowd into festive mode; a bawdy, funky Let the Good Times Roll establishing the party atmosphere that characterised the evening’s proceedings. Singer-guitarist Stevey Hay took over the reins for a funky, bluesy set which featured some electrifying guitar work from Neil Warden, notably on Got My Mojo Working.

There were quieter moments too – courtesy of a gorgeous duet on the ballad Nancy With the Laughing Face, by tenor saxophonist Julian Arguelles and Brian Kellock, and a poignant song, Dear Mr White, written by saxophonist Bobby Ewing who joined Liz MacEwan and co to perform it.

First published in The Scotsman,  Tuesday October 18th.

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