Tag Archives: Eric Harper

Edinburgh Jazz Festival: The Piano in Jazz

The Piano in Jazz, The Hub, Edinburgh
****
The days of the old Pianorama concert (in which most of the pianists in residence at the jazz festival would each play a 20-minute set, one after the other) may be gone, but the Piano in Jazz gig on Friday afternoon was the next best thing. As with Pianorama, it offered an eclectic mix of pianists – two very contemporary and one mainstream – but unlike the earlier format, they didn’t all play solo.
First up was the hot young London pianist Zoe Rahmann who didn’t chat, but let the piano do the talking, playing continuously throughout her allocated 30 minutes. Rahmann let one piece flow seamlessly into the next, and revealed a graceful, elegant style in the process. She ended with a masterful interpretation of the beautiful Ellington number Single Petal of a Rose before handing the stage over to American pianist David Berkman who was featured in a duo setting, with Scottish alto star Laura Macdonald.
Their wide-ranging programme highlighted their rapport and the pleasure they get from playing together. Highlights included the mesmerizing Ornette Coleman number Voice Poetry and and energetic take on John Coltrane’s Giant Steps which gave Macdonald especially something of a work-out both musically and physically.
The inclusion of local pianist Tom Finlay provided a contrast since his trio set had more appeal to the swing-oriented jazz fan. Accompanied by Americans Eric Harper (bass) and Ed Metz Jr (drums), Finlay dished up a hugely enjoyable and varied set including such gems as the jaunty Delaunay’s Dilemma and an eloquent What’s New which made great use of Metz’s classy drumming.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Festival of Swing

FESTIVAL OF SWING, QUEEN’S HALL
*****

It may be 83 years old, but the beautiful old tune Creole Love Call is certainly getting a work-out at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival. And not only that; she’s the belle of the ball. On Tuesday, for the second consecutive night, Duke Ellington’s gorgeously smoochy ballad inspired some magical playing, this time an exquisite clarinet duet by Bob Wilber and Alan Barnes, with Howard Alden’s guitar evoking the famous growls on the original recording, and Ed Metz Jr adding a dash of the oriental with his cymbals.
Actually, it was one of many highlights of a concert which could easily have turned out to be an all-star shambles as there was no Dick Hyman this year to coral the participants (who also included saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Joe Temperley, trumpeter Duke Heitger, bassist Eric Harper and pianist Tom Finlay) into an orderly ensemble. However, what it did have was the equally senior Bob Wilber as leader, and it worked a treat.
The first set was entirely composed of Ellington and Ellingtonian numbers and what was especially pleasing was the fact that we weren’t short-changed on the full, nine-man band front: often at these all-star gigs, there are a couple of crowd-pleasing numbers by le tout ensemble at the start and thereafter it’s a series of individual soloists playing with the rhythm section.
On Tuesday, although smaller bands emerged within the bigger band, there was plenty of tout ensemble action – on such knock-out numbers as hard-swinging The Jeep is Jumpin’ and a laidback Squeeze Me, and, in the second half, on a sensational All of Me and a thrilling Hindustan, one of several tunes which stirred memories of Wilber’s great Soprano Summit band.

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