Tag Archives: John Russell

Edinburgh Jazz Fest Memories: Roy Percy

Edinburgh Jazz Festival - Roy Percy on bass, 2017,& Dave Blenkhorn (guitar) 2

Roy Percy & Dave Blenkhorn, Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2017 (c) Alison Kerr

Scottish bass player Roy Percy was a student when he first became involved with the jazz festival; these days he can usually be seen in different line-ups throughout the event, and he’s kept busy the rest of the year as one third of the acclaimed Tim Kliphuis Trio and one quarter of the popular Swing 2018 band. He says:

“My earliest attendance of the jazz festival was in August 1984, when my school band was supposed to take part in the youth competition at the King James Hotel in the now Edinburgh Jazz Festival - Milt Hinton & Buddy Tate, 1986.jpg 2demolished St James Shopping Centre. We didn’t play in the end (no-one can remember why!) but we attended and watched the bands and lots of speeches.

“I first played the festival in 1986 with John Elliot’s Dixieland Band. We won the youth band award that year. It was sponsored by Avis car rentals. The award had their motto on it – ‘We Try Harder,’ which we thought was very funny, everything considered.

“The bands were only allowed one older member (over 25, I think) and in our case that was banjoist Bev Knight, who now plays for Jim Petrie in the Diplomats of Jazz. Everyone in the band was at the Edinburgh Uni except for me. I was a proud Stevenson College boy!

“My first big thrill of the jazz festival was that first year – I was a festival volunteer and one evening I filled in for Milt Hinton’s driver. I carried his bass into Meadowbank for him. He was nice – chatty and friendly – but I was a bit shy of asking him too many questions. I loved hearing him play. He slapped the bass a little too, which I hadn’t expected him to be doing. Fantastic!

“The following year, I played at the festival in Swing ’87 – with Dick Lee on clarinet, and John Russell and Martin Leys on guitars. (I joined in November 1986.) We had Fapy Lafertin join us that year. In his prime, he was the best of the gypsy guitarists, and still Edinburgh Jazz Festival - Al Casey (guitar), Ronnie Rae (bass), Roy Williams (trombone) Fingers Bar, 1987not surpassed by anyone since.

“That same year, I drove Al Casey to Pollock Halls of Residence (where he was staying, almost unbelievably!) in my 1964 Rover P4. I took the longest route I could think of so I could chat to him, as he was friendly and happy to chat. He kept asking:  ‘Is this a Rolls Royce?’

“At the halls, I made him a hot chocolate in the shared kitchenette and asked him about Fats Waller. ‘Best fun, strongest pianist I ever knew. So inventive too. I was a kid and learned so much, so quickly too. I gotta pee now.’ And that was it. Afterwards he went back to asking me about my car!”

Next: Fiona Alexander

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2013: Swing 2013

Swing 2013, Royal Overseas League, Edinburgh, Friday July 26th ***

Along with the Queen’s Hall, the Royal Overseas League, at 100 Princes Street, must be one of the only venues that has been a fixture of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival since it began in the 1970s. Ascending the stairs and navigating the maze of narrow corridors to find the always-crowded room – which, in recent years has been the festival home to some of the longest-serving local bands – always triggers flashbacks to the 1980s when the likes of Art Hodes, Milt Hinton and Dick Hyman were the draws.

The place has had a bit of a makeover recently (though one has the impression that the decorators might have had to work around the jazz festival audience since both it – and the volunteer who mans the ticket desk – seem to be part of the fixtures and fittings, never changing) – and so, by coincidence, has the band which was on the stand on Friday afternoon. Earlier this year, Swing 2013 lost its star soloist, the uber-talented Dick Lee – a virtuoso of the clarinet and various saxes. Its line-up may now be subject to change but on Friday it scored something of a winning goal by having as its guest the effervescent swing violinist Seonaid Aitken, whose ability to keep smiling gamely despite being verbally patted on the head at regular intervals by bandleader John Russell had to be admired.

With her bouncy, uplifting style of playing, Aitken evoked the spirit of Stephane Grappelli and enabled the band to dig deep into the Hot Club repertoire which he and gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt made famous. She won the packed house over from the off, but it was her dazzlingly accomplished solo on Bossa Dorado and her un-flashy, swoonsomely romantic contribution to Troublant Bolero which stood out.

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

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Fapy Lafertin/Swing 2010

FAPY LAFERTIN & SWING 2010, THE HUB
****
Many guitarists try to play like the legendary Django Reinhardt, but the great Fapy Lafertin, who shares a Belgian gypsy background with his hero, is probably the only one who sounds exactly like him – and sounds like him in a completely natural and unforced way.
For Sunday afternoon’s performance, Lafertin – whose one-time swashbuckling look has been replaced with a more avuncular appearance – was reunited with the Edinburgh band which – as its leader, John Russell, explained – was formed 30 years ago as a direct result of Lafertin’s sensational performance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
Which accounts for the laid-back rapport between Russell and Lafertin. The band’s usual solo guitarist, Stephen Coutts, had to make way for the guest star – which made for a slightly solo-heavy opener, Djangology, as both were featured. But thereafter, everything worked as if they had been playing together for years. The dependably excellent clarinettist Dick Lee seemed particularly inspired by the presence of Lafertin, and their unison playing at the start of many of the faster numbers was terrific. By the time they got to the thrillingly fast encore, China Boy, the energetic Lee was practically bouncing off the walls.
However, it was the ballads which brought the house down. “Oh, wow!” exclaimed one woman, unaware that she was thinking out loud, as Lafertin brought the dreamy ballad Manoir de mes reves, to a spectacular climax. She was only echoing the thoughts of most of the audience, though, which was blown away by Lafertin’s uncanny musical resemblance, in every way (from the notes he chose to the manner in which he played) them) to one of the giants of jazz.

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