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

Eccentric

Rollini

Idlin’

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