Monthly Archives: July 2012

Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Nova Scotia Jazz Band with Brian Kellock

Nova Scotia Jazz Band with Brian Kellock, Teatro Spiegeltent, Sunday July 29th


Yowser. The Edinburgh Jazz Festival ended in party mode on Sunday night with a rip-roaring concert by a group which is not exactly a stranger to Edinburgh audiences. But what the Nova Scotia Jazz Band lacked in exotic appeal it made up for in energy and enthusiasm: this was a terrific gig which ensured that the festival went out with a bang for those of us in attendance. Only a bit of dancing would have added to the fun.

And dancing would certainly have complemented the music which included scorching performances of suchJazz Age pop tunes as Black Bottom and The Charleston. Only bandleader John Burgess’s battle cry of “G’on yersel’!” to banjo player Duncan Finlay on the high-octane opener Goody Goody threatened to shatter the illusion that we were in a1920s Chicago speakeasy.

Playing in the front line of the Nova Scotias for the first time since Mike Daly’s departure, trumpeter Ryan Quigley brought a dynamism to proceedings and delivered a series of superb, red-hot solos on material not normally associated with him. His muted breaks on That Da-Da Strain were especially memorable, along with some beautiful, Chet Baker-esque playing on Embraceable You, a gorgeous duet with pianist Brian Kellock who had earlier threatened to blow the roof of the tent off with his sensational playing, notably on what must be the only version of C Jam Blues to kick off with the Death March theme from Star Wars.

It will be a night to remember for local bass player Roy Percy, too – though not for the cheeriest of reasons: apologising for the late start to the concert, John Burgess explained that Percy, who had been playing earlier in the evening, had fallen from the stage and dislocated his shoulder.

First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 31st

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: World Jazz Orchestra

World Jazz Orchestra, Festival Theatre, Saturday July 28th


Talk about pulling it out of the bag. Saturday night’s prestigious concert by the World Jazz Orchestra, a band specially formed for this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, was terrific – but it did not feature the programme that organisers or its director, Joe Temperley, had in mind.

It didn’t feature the new black suit that Mrs Temperley had bought for her octogenarian husband to wear, either. It, plus Mrs T, plus some of the music that was going to be played, were stuck on a seriously delayed plane, which only took off from Newark as the concert ended. Anyone else might have been fazed, but Temperley instead delivered a concert which was packed with magic moments from the repertoire of Duke Ellington; just not the magic moments that had been intended.

The members of this band may have come from every corner of the globe (and may not have met until Friday) but they certainly gelled over the wonderful music that they played. It was a thrill to musicians of this calibre performing transcribed arrangements of such classic Ellington recordings as Rockin’ in Rhythm, Harlem Airshaft and Oclupaca, one of the few parts of the original programme of Ellington suites that wasn’t being flown in. The Work Song from Black, Brown and Beige was a tantalising glimpse of what might have been – and may well be, when Temperley returns to Scotland later in the year some Ellington concerts.

Among those who stood out were trombonist John Allred, pianist Aaron Diehl and Cecile McLorin Salvant whose vocals were the icing on an already scrumptious cake. Indeed, the highlight of the night was a Mood Indigo which featured those three plus Temperley on bass clarinet.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th

Edinburgh Jazz Festival World Jazz Orchestra

Director: Joe Temperley (baritone sax & bass clarinet)

Trumpets: Anders Gustafsson (Sweden), Frank Brodahl (Norway), Florian Menzel (Germany), Itamar Borochov (Israel)

Trombones: John Allred (USA), Jan Oosting (Netherlands), Jung Joogwha (South Korea)

Saxes: Jesper Thilo (tenor, clarinet; Denmark), Karolina Strassmayer (alto; Austria), Naoyuki Takano (alto, clarinet; Japan), Michael Buckley (tenor, soprano; Ireland), Lisa Parrot (baritone; Australia)

Piano: Aaron Diehl (USA)

Bass: Pierre Maingourd (France)

Drums: Tom Gordon (Scotland)

Vocals: Cecile McLorin Salvant (France/USA)


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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Brian Molley & Mario Caribe Brazilian Quartet

Brian Molley & Mario Caribe’s Brazilian Quartet, Salon Elegance, Saturday July 28th ***

Taking refuge in a tent where warm, Brazilian music was on the bill was the only sensible option in the early part of Saturday evening, when a monsoon was raging over Edinburgh. The unpredictable and often downright abysmal weather has played a significant part in this year’s jazz festival experience: whereas during the glorious sunshine of last year’s event, the George Square Gardens was a bustling hub last year, where you could meet and mingle, this year, spending any time there has been a calculated risk.

So it was an appreciative – if soggy – crowd which settled down for the music of Brian Molley and Mario Caribe’s Brazilian Quartet. Saxophonist Molley and bassist Caribe are well known on the Scottish music, but the other half of the band comprised two of Caribe’s fellow Brazilians, Fabio Torres (piano) and Edu Ribiero (drums), flown in from Sao Paolo for this project which featured almost exclusively original compositions.

These musicians may not be regular collaborators but they made up a tight unit, and are clearly of a similar state of musical mind. The numbers played may have been penned by different members of the band but there was a flow to the programme of the concert because of the stylistic similarities.

What seemed to be missing, unfortunately, was the classic Brazilian jazz vibe – the way in which the great Stan Getz recordings of the 1960s delivered the balmy bossa or sultry samba feel with a breezy coolness. This was less warm, but very dry – and a bit too repetitive. Which is perhaps why, once the rain eased up outside, there was something of a minor exodus from the concert…

First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Havana Swing

Havana Swing, Teatro Spiegeltent, Friday July 27th ***

Well, there can’t be many better ways to launch oneself into the final weekend of the jazz festival than by listening – and in certain sections of the packed Spiegeltent audience – dancing to the Dundonian band, Havana Swing.

Inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt and his fellow gypsy jazzers, Havana Swing may not have any gypsy blood flowing through the veins of its band members (one of whom was absent last night) but it certainly conjures up the spirit of Django and co. And it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As bass player Calum McKenzie quipped about one of the two lead guitarists: “Ashley’s from Perth. In order to learn that authentic style, he stayed with the gypsies in Dundee. For three years. Made a man of him.”

This was easygoing, easy-to-enjoy jazz served with a healthy dose of humour and, latterly, a dollop of panache. The first half of the concert was fun but unremarkable; a series of jaunty numbers – including the catchy Hotel du Palais (“written in the Hotel du Palais, Aberfeldy”) which suggested that Havana Swing’s main forte is as an ensemble – no single player stood out as the star of the show.

In the second half, however, Walter Smith’s gorgeous, golden-toned clarinet came to the fore, beautifully offset on such lovely ballads as Nuages and Harlem Nocturne by the collective, gently swinging sound of John Whyte and Ashley Malcom’s lead guitars and McKenzie’s bass.

First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 28th


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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Cecile McLorin Salvant Quartet

Cecile McLorin Salvant Quartet, Salon Elegance, Thursday July 26th 


It’s not often you feel you’re in the presence of greatness but there was probably not one person in the Salon Elegance tent at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival on Thursday night who did not sense that they were in close proximity to a great new voice.

The 22-year-old singer Cecile McLorin Salvant is quite something to behold. She has an extraordinarily versatile voice which mesmerised the audience whether she was singing a gentle ballad or putting over a sexy, salty blues. Only the recurring problem of the beat of the music from elsewhere in George Square infiltrating the tent threatened to snap anyone out of the Salvant spell which was especially effective on the gorgeous ballads There’s a Lull in My Life and Born To Be Blue, both of which showcased the luscious, rich quality to her wide-ranging voice and the way she brings every word to life.

That aspect was particularly evident on Love For Sale where her habits of distorting vowels, plunging deep into her range and making unexpectedly ugly sounds were used to powerful, dramatic effect, underlying her disgust at the scene she was depicting – a technique which brought Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit to mind. The tragic piece of folk lore encapsulated in a spiritual entitled John Henry also benefitted from Salvant’s gift for storytelling. That song was one of a handful which might be almost five times as old as she is: it was a glorious treat to hear the seldom-performed blues Oh Daddy and to be introduced to Bert Williams song Nobody.

Many of the songs may have been from the 1920s and 1930s, but Salvant brought them vividly back to life – and, what was surprising was the agelessness about her performance: only such jubilant, energetic numbers as the wonderful Valaida Snow song I Can’t Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants) and What a Little Moonlight Can Do served as a reminder of the fact that she is not an older singer.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Aga Zaryan

Aga Zaryan, Salon Elegance, Wednesday July 25th **

Earlier in the week, it was the seepage of water which threatened to cause problems in the gardens where the jazz festival has set up camp. On Wednesday, however, it was the seepage of sound between an over-running blues gig in the tent next door which delayed the start of Polish singer Aga Zaryan’s debut performance in Edinburgh.

The 15-minute delay gave punters the chance to enjoy a CD of Zaryan singing standards in a swinging, joyful style. However, those of us who assumed that we were being set up for a concert of tuneful, uplifting jazz were to be disappointed. There was very little that was tuneful or uplifting about the dreary music which the affable vocalist and her quartet performed. Indeed, it was difficult to reconcile her cheery, warm personality when she was chatting to the audience with the depressing effects of her downbeat songs which were either very badly written or very badly translated.

Looking, Walking, Being was a case in point. It contained the immortal lines: “I’m breathing, in, I’m breathing out, I’m breathing to be able to be walking.” Fine as a mantra to sing when going into labour – as Zaryan looks set to do, imminently – but hardly worthy of being heard alongside the best song of the show, Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away, a terrific showcase for Zaryan’s rich, deep and super-sensual voice.

The only possible antidote to a concert in which the highlight was the play-in CD was a return trip to Dirty Martini at Le Monde, where the charismatic Curtis Stigers banished ballads about breathing from the mind with his – and ace guitarist James Scholfield’s – intoxicating cocktail of jazz standards, pop ballads and country-tinged blues. And songs about sex.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra Salutes the Kings of Jazz

Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra Salutes the Kings of Jazz, Salon Elegance, Tuesday July 24th ****

Five days into the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and even the most seasoned campaigner can begin to lag. Thank the lord, then, for Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra and its Beiderbecke-heavy Tuesday evening programme. There is nothing like a blast of Bix to buoy this girl’s flagging spirits – and the CJO obliged, in style, serving up so many uplifting and jubilant 1920s hits that it was almost impossible to resist the urge to rouge one’s knees, bob one’s hair and embark on a dance marathon with gay abandon (if not a gay friend).

The Beiderbecke repertoire is packed with gems which Mathieson has dusted off and lovingly arranged for his eight-piece band, and it’s always a delight to hear them being played with so much panache and enthusiasm – and especially by such terrific younger players as trombonist Phil O’Malley and tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski.

One of the particular joys of the CJO’s interpretations of Bix music is the way in which the cornettist’s unforgettable and often exquisite solos have been retained and arranged for the entire outfit to play, often in unison – and, on Tuesday, a highlight was the famous I’m Comin’ Virginia solo which trumpeter Billy Hunter began on his own before being joined by le tout ensemble.

Other stand-outs in this Bix bonanza were From Monday On, Ostrich Walk and There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears which featured a dazzling solo from Wiszniewski who was also memorably showcased on Buddy Tate’s Idlin’ – from the non-Beiderbecke part of the programme.

First published in The Herald on Thursday, July 26th

Ostrich Walk

There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears

Old Stack O’Lee Blues

Squatty Roo

Big Butter and Egg Man

I’m Comin’ Virginia

Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down

Can’t We Be Friends

From Monday On

Jack the Bear

Singin’ the Blues




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The Breath of Fresh Air

One of the great finds of last year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival was a young singer named Cecile McLorin Salvant who blew into town like a breath of fresh air for many of us fans of classic and mainstream jazz. With her bright sound and pared-back style of singing, this striking 22-year-old, who is bringing her own band to the festival tonight and appears with the World Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, exudes the joie-de-vivre and youthful dynamism of Billie Holiday on her first recordings. And as if that wasn’t enough, she stands alone as a twentysomething, black champion of the songs and singers of the 1920s and 1930s – though she has been inspired by dozens of more recent vocalists too.

But Salvant never set out to be a jazz singer. Indeed, she’s more or less been hijacked by the jazz community which knows a good thing when it hears it – and is not prepared to let her go. The young American, whose parents are French and Haitian, had her heart set on another style of singing when she inadvertently fell into her jazz career.

She explains: “I’ve long had a deep wish to be a classical singer. Classical singing is my first passion. It demands so much technically. For anyone who listens to a classical voice it’s astounding to hear what the great singers can do with their voice. It’s kind of freakish. I think that’s what attracted me to it. I love the voice above all kinds of genres … and the classical western vocal technique is something that has always fascinated me.”

As a child growing up in Miami, Salvant was, however, exposed to jazz from an early age. “My mum used to listen to a lot of the great singers – Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn. I always had jazz in the back of my mind but I didn’t really pay attention to it.”

It was during a year’s sabbatical in Aix-en-Provence that the then 18-year-old Salvant was thrown off-course musically. She was going to study classical voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatoire in Aix, and – at her mother’s suggestion – tried out for the jazz programme as well. The professor who heard her sing her version of Lullaby of Birdland was Jean-Francois Bonnel, whom long-standing Edinburgh Jazz Festival-goers may remember as one of the original members of the hugely popular Hot Antic Jazz Band.

Bonnel is a renowned musicologist and expert on classic and early jazz – and he was immediately taken with Salvant. Not that he gave her that impression. Salvant recalls: “He didn’t say too much. I thought I probably wouldn’t bother going to the class, but he approached me in the steeet and asked me to come – and that was the first of the many times he told me: ‘You have to do this, you have to scat, you have to learn how to accompany yourself at the piano ….’

“He was very instrumental in putting me out there and getting me out of my comfort zone. He was a huge catalyst. I would not probably have done this had it not been for him..”

Bonnel clearly recognised the potential in Salvant, and identified something in her voice and style that harks back to the 1930s, the decade when Billie Holiday was her age. “When I met him I didn’t know that stuff at all. I knew late Sarah Vaughan records, late Billie Holiday records. He’s the one who pointed me in the direction of their earlier work. And I fell in love with the music of the 1920s and 1930s. It became something that’s central to my development. A lot of people you meet – teachers and musicians – are not hip to that stuff, they don’t know about that stuff. They tell you about Louis Armstrong but that’s as far as it goes. Miles Davis and Kind of Blue seem to be THE  reference point – and the danger is that everyone ends up getting that aesthetic and sounds like that.”

Within two years of working with Bonnel, Salvant had won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Vocals Competition 2010 in Washington, to her great shock. Indeed, she was so taken aback by winning, that she only “thinks” she was handed the prize by jazz luminary Herbie Hancock; the whole experience was so “surreal” that it’s a bit of a blur.

Since then, she has worked with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra – indeed, it was their baritone saxophonist, Joe Temperley, who recommended her for this Saturday’s World Jazz Orchestra concert in Edinburgh – and has met a string of her heroes, notably, she says, Annie Ross.”Before I was even singing, I knew about Annie Ross because of Twisted – I loved that song and would play it over and over again.”

Ross is a perfect example of someone who, like the later Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan records that Salvant first knew, sounds as if she has really lived. Does she feel that there’s a pressure on her to sound as if she has been round the block a few times – even though she’s only 22.

“Yes, I think people expect a lot from a jazz singer. They expect a certain sound, and sometimes it’s hard to force yourself not to pay attention too much to those expectations and just do something that’s sincere.”

And does she feel she’s been hijacked from her classical aspirations? “Well,” she admits, “in the beginning I felt that way. I had my mind set on the classical, and all of a sudden someone was telling me ‘You need to sing jazz, you have a voice that works really well with jazz, you should do it, you’re getting all these gigs’.. And I still haven’t done a classical gig where I’m paid. I now feel that it’s not so much that I was hijacked but that all the arrows were pointing to this thing that seems to be happening easier and quicker and seems to be also a very natural path. And it’s also very vocally demanding and very vocally interesting so it’s a music that took me a little bit more time to understand and love… but now I’m obsessed with jazz and I listen to it all the time.”

* Cecile McLorin Salvant sings with the World Jazz Orchestra at the Festival Theatre on Saturday, July 28 at 8pm. For more information visit

First published in The Scotsman, Thursday July 26th 2012

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Orange Kellin & Morten Gunnar Larsen

Orange Kellin & Morten Gunnar Larsen, Spiegeltent, Monday July 23rd ****

Rain beating down on the tent’s roof, damp coats, uncomfortable Spiegeltent seats, and two guys onstage who looked like they’d taken a wrong turn en route to a convention for Latin teachers: the early evening jazz festival gig on Monday did not promise to be a joyful affair. But the duo concert featuring the versatile Norwegian pianist Larsen (last heard here last year accompanying a singer on a programme of cabaret songs) and Swedish-born clarinettist Kellin proved to be well worth running the risk of contracting trench foot from the George Square mud.

These musicians are keepers of the flame of early and classic jazz styles and, on Monday, they exhumed tunes from the repertoires of three pioneering jazz men – and made them as fresh and thrilling as they must have been when they were written, in some cases almost a century ago. With their rousing opener, Jelly Roll Morton’s Big Fat Ham, any thought of this music being of purely historic interest went out the tent window; this was thrilling, exhilarating stuff which instantly hooked the audience and kept everyone pinned to their seats for a solid 90 minutes.

With his squawky, authentic New Orleans clarinet sound, Kellin complements Larsen’s delicate, refined piano style perfectly and what was particularly appealing was the fact that each of the musicians had a direct link to one of the other two composers whose work was featured: in the 1970s, Kellin worked with the great trumpeter Jabbo Smith, whose tender ballads I Owe It All To You and Must Be Right; Can’t Be Wrong were highlights, while the young Larsen met the legendary ragtime pianist Eubie Blake at around the same time. In other words, Monday’s audience was three degrees separated from a certain Scott Joplin…

First published in The Herald, Wednesday, July 25th


Big Fat Ham

Wild Man Blues

Shreveport Stomp


How Could Cupid Be So Stupid?

I Owe It All To You

Katie Red, Who’s Been Sleepin’ in My Bed?

Love Will Find a Way

Chevy Chase

Must Be Right; Can’t Be Wrong

Bandana Days

You’re Lucky to Me – Memories of You


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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer, Festival Theatre, Sunday July 22nd ****

If the Olympics took in vocal events, then The Manhattan Transfer would surely be in the running. The four-piece close-harmony singing group may now be in its fifth decade but it shows no sign of slowing down – or of resting on its considerable laurels. Not, if its Sunday night concert was anything to go by.

Mind you, as far as the enthusiastic Edinburgh audience, which was comprised largely of the group’s contemporaries, was concerned, this quartet could do no wrong. Janis Siegel, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne were welcomed onstage like old friends and immediately set out their stall as a super-slick, seriously swinging operation. So seriously swinging, in fact, that even the jazz festival logo, which was beamed onto the curtain behind them, was bopping up and down as they opened the show with their famous cover of the Ink Spots’ classic That Cat is High.

They zoomed about the decades, revisiting a string of hits from their long career together and demonstrating the range of their repertoire – from 1930s novelty tunes, via vocalese treatments of jazz recordings of the 1940s onwards, to their distinctive pop-like handling of songs they put on the map.

Among the numerous highlights were Soul Food To Go, a superb showcase of their gorgeous collective sound; the electrifying Birdland, which brought the house down at the end of the evening, and the vocalese number The Sidewinder, the Lee Morgan tune to which Jon Hendricks added lyrics. On that song, as with Chick Corea’s atmospheric and colourful Spain, Janis Siegel’s dazzling vocal acrobats stole the show, while her solo number, Jeepers Creepers, blew the rest of the group’s out of the water.

First published in The Herald, Tuesday,  July 24th

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