Tag Archives: Festival Theatre

Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2017: Seonaid Aitken – A Night With Ella

Seonaid Aitken – A Night With Ella, Festival Theatre ***

After Alison Burns’s homage to Ella Fitzgerald at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, it was Seonaid Aitken, recently named Best Vocalist at the Scottish Jazz Awards but originally known on the jazz scene as a dazzlingly talented violinist, who had the honour of marking the legendary singer’s centenary for the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. 
 
While Burns’s concert was a duo affair, in an intimate venue, Aitken’s, which featured the impressive Groove Merchant Big Band and The Scottish Festival Orchestra Strings, was the Saturday night slot at the Festival Theatre, an occasion which one might – given the jazz festival’s long history of all-star extravaganzas – have expected to boast a number of better-known names, each perhaps focusing on a different aspect of Fitzgerald’s back catalogue.
 
So, no pressure on Aitken then .. However, she pulled it out of the bag in terms of entertaining the audience with her warm personality and covering all areas of Fitzgerald’s career singlehandedly; even managing to justify a violin feature because there’s a violin solo on It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) from Fitzgerald’s Ellington Songbook album. 
 
That song, however, summed up the issue that any jazz aficionado might have had with this tribute. Its singer didn’t swing. Aitken has a beautiful voice, and she swings like mad when playing her violin – but when she’s singing lyrics, she is terribly sedate and sings the songs very straight. The stand-out of the evening was her recreation of Fitzgerald’s iconic scat solo on How High the Moon – where she did a superb job of letting rip and going with the swinging flow of the fantastic big band behind her.
* First published in The Scotsman, Monday July 17th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2013: Mud Morganfield

Mud Morganfield, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Saturday July 27th ** 

It was all happening down in the front row of the Saturday night concert at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. For the first hour of the gig by singer Mud Morganfield half of the front row was busily engaged in flouting the no-filming rules and the other half was bopping in the aisle. By the second hour, the number of dancers had swollen as the original boppers were joined by couples from all over the theatre. And it wasn’t long before the star of the show, realising that what was happening in front of the stage was proving more interesting than what was happening on it, began inviting dancers up to join him.

Frankly, for those of us who had hoped to be entertained merely by listening and watching (which we had been during an opening set by Jenson Interceptors Blues Revue and Shades of Blue), this provided some relief from the monotony of Mud Morganfield’s performance. For much of the first half of his set, he had sung similar-sounding songs with unintelligible lyrics; a bit more variety (some ballads and some R’n’B) came into play after his brush with two female dancers from the audience. And when I say brush, I mean nigh-on encouraging them to rub up against him. The two male dancers who had also come up on stage somehow de-materialised, and Morganfield announced that the better female dancer would be given a CD if they waited at the end of the show ..

* First published in The Scotsman on Monday, July 29th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: World Jazz Orchestra

World Jazz Orchestra, Festival Theatre, Saturday July 28th

****

Talk about pulling it out of the bag. Saturday night’s prestigious concert by the World Jazz Orchestra, a band specially formed for this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, was terrific – but it did not feature the programme that organisers or its director, Joe Temperley, had in mind.

It didn’t feature the new black suit that Mrs Temperley had bought for her octogenarian husband to wear, either. It, plus Mrs T, plus some of the music that was going to be played, were stuck on a seriously delayed plane, which only took off from Newark as the concert ended. Anyone else might have been fazed, but Temperley instead delivered a concert which was packed with magic moments from the repertoire of Duke Ellington; just not the magic moments that had been intended.

The members of this band may have come from every corner of the globe (and may not have met until Friday) but they certainly gelled over the wonderful music that they played. It was a thrill to musicians of this calibre performing transcribed arrangements of such classic Ellington recordings as Rockin’ in Rhythm, Harlem Airshaft and Oclupaca, one of the few parts of the original programme of Ellington suites that wasn’t being flown in. The Work Song from Black, Brown and Beige was a tantalising glimpse of what might have been – and may well be, when Temperley returns to Scotland later in the year some Ellington concerts.

Among those who stood out were trombonist John Allred, pianist Aaron Diehl and Cecile McLorin Salvant whose vocals were the icing on an already scrumptious cake. Indeed, the highlight of the night was a Mood Indigo which featured those three plus Temperley on bass clarinet.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th

Edinburgh Jazz Festival World Jazz Orchestra

Director: Joe Temperley (baritone sax & bass clarinet)

Trumpets: Anders Gustafsson (Sweden), Frank Brodahl (Norway), Florian Menzel (Germany), Itamar Borochov (Israel)

Trombones: John Allred (USA), Jan Oosting (Netherlands), Jung Joogwha (South Korea)

Saxes: Jesper Thilo (tenor, clarinet; Denmark), Karolina Strassmayer (alto; Austria), Naoyuki Takano (alto, clarinet; Japan), Michael Buckley (tenor, soprano; Ireland), Lisa Parrot (baritone; Australia)

Piano: Aaron Diehl (USA)

Bass: Pierre Maingourd (France)

Drums: Tom Gordon (Scotland)

Vocals: Cecile McLorin Salvant (France/USA)

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