Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2014: Gramophone Jass Band

Gramophone Jass Band, Tron Kirk, Sunday July 20th ***

The first impression of the Gramophone Jass Band was that the sight of these seven twentysomething guys holding the instruments of a traditional jazz band was a sight to warm the jaded jazz heart. And the first impressions of their music was that it was a sound to lift the spirit. After all, unless it’s being played by a European band, Exactly Like You is usually more likely to be heard at the jazz festival being played by groups with a dress code of beer-belly accommodating T-shirts and Humphrey Lyttelton-inspired primary coloured trousers. Overall, however, the Gramophone Jass Band looked like they’d been styled by the costume designer of O Brother Where Art Thou – with an obligatory “jazz beret” thrown in for good measure.

Clearly, image is – understandably and refreshingly – important to this band. As for the sound, well, it was also refreshingly energetic, exuberant and youthful, bringing new life to such ancient jazz numbers as The Darktown Strutters’ Ball and Sweet Georgia Brown. The ensemble played in a raggedy, loose style which worked well most of the time, but occasionally became so raggedy and loose that it sounded as if the wheels were falling off the band wagon.

Generally, it would have been great to dance to (something that was not lost on the audience-member who rose, trance-like, from her seat and began dancing suggestively at the bar), but for a 90-minute concert, the music wasn’t compelling enough, and there were too many opportunities to hear the two vocalists and not enough to hear the band’s secret weapons – their loose-limbed clarinettist/soprano saxophonist, who seemed to throw his whole body into his playing,  and their eloquent and commanding trumpeter.

First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 26th

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Filed under Concert reviews, Edinburgh Jazz Festival reviews archive

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