Tag Archives: Eliot Murray

Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Eliot Murray Big Band

Eliot Murray Big Band: 1947 Tommy Sampson and Edwin Holland, West Princes Street Gardens Spiegeltent ****
 
It may have been the jazz festival show with the longest title but that title still doesn’t explain what Tuesday lunchtime’s West Princes Street Gardens gig was all about. The short-lived big band formed by Edinburgh-born trumpeter Tommy Sampson (who died in 2008 at the age of 90) just after the Second World War is considered by many to be one of the best British big bands of the era. 
 
Sampson, who became known as “Scotland’s King of Swing,” founded the 17—piece band for the 1947 season at the El Dorado ballroom in Leith, and, playing arrangements by Sampson and his right-hand man Edwin Holland, it was an instant hit and soon made a big impact on the British music scene, thanks to numerous tours and BBC broadcasts.  
 
Just as the Sampson orchestra saw the likes of future international star Joe Temperley pass through its ranks, so Tuesday’s concert, under the direction of the affable Eliot Murray, a longtime associate of Sampson, boasted the cream of the current crop of Scottish jazz musicians (including Laura Macdonald, Konrad Wiszniewski and Allon Beauvoisin), several of whom are having a busy festival juggling different musical personalities for different projects. 
 
Martin Kershaw, for example, was last seen playing the part of Lee Konitz in the Birth of the Cool concert at the weekend, but on Tuesday he slipped elegantly into 1940s swing mode, playing some hot, sweet clarinet a la Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. His storming solo on Herman’s Apple Honey added an extra level of excitement to what was already a sensational number.
 
* First published in The Herald, Thursday July 20th
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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2014: Iain Hunter

Iain Hunter, Queen’s Hall, Saturday July 19th ***

Well, there’s a first time for everything – and it’s safe to say that Saturday night’s concert by crooner Iain Hunter was the first jazz festival gig in which the headline act offered the audience a discount on mince (ten per cent, in case you’re interested). This, after all, was the Queen’s Hall debut of the man known as “the Singing Butcher”, and, boy, was he thrilled to be on that stage.

Anyone who attended his concert and had never heard him before, however, might have been forgiven for wondering if they had gatecrashed a mega wedding reception. Why? Not just because women got up and danced in a circle, but because the star seemed to know most of the members of the audience personally. Likable and self-effacing though he was, Hunter did rather push his luck with the name-checks and dedications – so much so that it was tempting to seek out one of the former church’s donations boxes to pass among the pews as a makeshift sick bucket.

So what is it – chummy banter aside – that made the audience go bonkers for the butcher? Well, he has an appealing, commanding voice and swinging style. He sings the songs of Sinatra, Darin and co the way we remember hearing them. Singing along is not discouraged; it’s de rigueur. It’s all very familiar and enjoyable. And on Saturday, he had the accompaniment of a first-class band – led by Eliot Murray – featuring some of Scotland’s top players; something he was clearly relishing. It would have been nice to hear some instrumental solos, but this wasn’t a jazz concert; this was all about the singer and his rapport with the audience.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 21st

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