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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