Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2013: Vieux Carre Jazzmen/Shreveport Rhythm

Vieux Carre Jazzmen, Tron Kirk, Edinburgh, Saturday July 20th **

Saturday late afternoon at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival’s much talked about new venue the Tron Kirk was always going to be an interesting experience. A centrally located venue, serving food and drink, it has no toilets inside – the jazz festival programme directs punters to the public toilets in Hunter Square; toilets which most of us have earmarked as “for emergency use only”.

The atmosphere on Saturday for the set by Newcastle band the Vieux Carre Jazzmen was very much that of a Saturday afternoon in the pub – it seemed as if the people who most enjoyed the experience were those who had paid a fiver to come in for a pint with musical accompaniment and were happy to chat through it rather than those who had come to hear some festival standard jazz.

Maybe the drinkers knew something that the rest of us didn’t: that, in the old days, the Vieux Carre Jazzmen would have been playing on the pub trail – rather than a ticketed gig. Certainly, even allowing for the dodgy acoustics, it sounded like a pub band (albeit one with an impressive, George Lewis-like, clarinettist) – and their men-down-the-pub “image” merely reflected that of the appreciative members of the audience.

The antidote to the depressingly familiar trad experience offered by the Vieux Carres turned out to be a dose of Shreveport Rhythm, a young, nattily-attired and charismatic German quartet which impressed with wonderful performances of everything from Beiderbecke, Basie and Bechet hits to crowd-pleasing jive numbers. Leader Helge Sachs dazzled with his clarinet and soprano sax playing, notably on a gorgeous Blue in Thirds and a red hot That’s a Plenty.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 22nd 2013

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