New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band, City Art Centre **
The Friday late-night session at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival’s new venue for 2016, the fifth floor of the City Art Centre, was a bit of a surreal experience – before you even got to the performance by a be-kilted escapee from the Louis Armstrong lookalikes agency.
Why? Because, as with the Spiegeltents, where punters have to queue in all weathers until doors-open a few minutes before kick-off, ticket-holders had to wait in line in the ground floor lobby until, eight minutes before showtime, they were allowed into the lift – in groups determined by the ticket inspectors. The easyjet similarity continued with a pre-take-off announcement that, upon disembarking, the bar would be on their right and the toilets straight-ahead.
If you were flying solo and weren’t in the first few elevators’ full, then by the time you reached your destination, and had bought a drink or been to the bathroom, the music had started and there were no seats available other than at the very back of this long, curtained-off space.
Still, as it turned out, this was probably the place to sit – if you were alone and not in “party flight” mode. It meant that the Swamp Donkeys wouldn’t spot grimaces on the this jazz fan’s face as their leader, trumpeter and singer James Williams, turned in 90 minutes’ worth of panto-worthy impersonations of Louis Armstrong, complete with giant white hanky.
Despite his respectable trumpet playing, and some nice ensemble moments, and although the party-tastic young Friday night crowd lapped it up, there was nothing special about this touristy New Orleans band whose only advantages over a similarly unremarkable Scottish trad band were the authentic accents.
* First published in The Herald, Monday July 18