Davina and the Vagabonds, Tron Kirk, Friday July 17th ***
This was supposed to be a write-up of first two gigs of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, which kicked off yesterday lunchtime, but the wonderful, long-serving, local band the Diplomats of Jazz escaped review because a couple of numbers into their set, cornettist/vocalist and leader Jim Petrie took ill and the concert was, understandably, abandoned while an ambulance was called.
And so the gig which launched this reviewer’s festival turned out to be the first of this year’s quartet of performances by Davina and the Vagabonds, an American band which – judging by the impressive turn-out yesterday lunchtime – clearly made some friends during the 2014 event.
Davina, who sings and leads the quintet from the piano, is an ebullient, wisecracking and appealing personality with a striking 1940s look – she’s Julie Kavner crossed with Dita Von Teese. She did her best to engage with the punters despite getting a crick in her neck trying to do said engaging over one shoulder, as her piano was facing into an audience-less corner. Vocally, and in her choice of (mostly R&B) material, she recalled Amy Winehouse – at times the resemblance was quite uncanny.
Unfortunately, much of the original, repetitive and brass-heavy, material her band performed didn’t allow her to shine and when they turned their hands to Fats Waller’s repertoire – in particular Louisiana Fairytale – it was almost like a pastiche. Easily the stand-out was Etta James’s I Would Rather Go Blind which was a vocal tour-de-force; absolutely electrifying.
* First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 18th