Tag Archives: Kenny Ellis

Edinburgh Jazz Fest Memories: Forrie Cairns

Edinburgh Jazz Festival archive - Recordbreaker photo

Forrie Cairns (third from left in front row), with Jim Galloway (centre, on soprano sax) playing When the Saints Go Marching In at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival’s Guinness Book of Records attempt at biggest ever jazz band. This was just, says Forrie, one section of the band!

One-time member of the Clyde Valley Stompers and a fixture on the Scottish jazz scene from the 1950s onwards, Glasgow-born clarinettist Forrie Cairns enjoyed the Edinburgh Jazz Festival as both a player and a listener. He says:

“I was working virtually non-stop in Switzerland for the first 30 years of the jazz festival. But on the odd occasion when I took part in it (I think four altogether), what always excited me was the way Mike Hart (before it became more of committee-run event) managed to arrange those great afternoon Pub Trail gigs and the ones in the Festival Club with all the unusual line-ups comprising the musicians from the various visiting bands.

“For example, in the mid- 1980’s I came over for week with Bob Wallis and although I worked each night with Bob at various venues, I found myself one afternoon duetting with John Crocker, the sax/ clarinet player from the Chris Barber Band. It was great fun.

“That same year gave me the unique opportunity one other afternoon of listening for one hour to the two wonderful horns of Warren Vaché and Spanky Davis, the resident horn man at Jimmy Ryan’s Club in New York. Two quite different styles and two musicians at their peak, not attempting to blow each other off the stand, but rather complementing each other in quite superb fashion. Those musicians who crowded into the Festival Club that day were so lucky. That was the Edinburgh Festival at its best.”

Warren Vache & Spanky Davis, 1985 2

Warren Vache & Spanky Davis with Kenny Ellis (bass), Festival Club, 1985

Next: Alison Kerr

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Review: Carol Kidd Quartet

Carol Kidd Quartet, Perth Theatre, Perth, Friday May 25 ***

Friday night’s concert at the Perth Festival was a bit of a nostalgia trip – for both Carol Kidd  and her near-capacity audience. The singer hadn’t performed in the town for years and was propelled down memory lane by old friends in the audience whose names she called out as if she was taking the school register. Not only that but the concert reunited pianist Brian Kellock and guitarist Nigel Clark who were both in her band in the 1990s – and now tend to be heard with her on an either/or basis.

Indeed, their contribution, along with that of bassist Kenny Ellis, was one of the delights of the concert; the combination of piano, guitar and bass producing on many numbers – notably Night and Day – a sultry, balmy sound which was entirely appropriate for a summer’s evening and the perfect setting for the Kidd vocals. The only drawback was that there was an imbalance of sound and Clark’s guitar was not always audible.

And as for the star of the evening? Well, it was obvious to Kidd aficionados that she must have been getting over some throat issues as she confined herself more than usual to the lower register of her range. Hopefully, these will be well in the past by Thursday when she duets with Kellock on a Gershwin programme at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh.

Review first published in The Herald, Monday May 28

I

Skylark

A Little Jazz Bird

Jeepers Creepers

Embraceable You

I Got Plenty of Nuttin’

Come Rain or Come Shine

Moon River

II

Time After Time

Georgia On My Mind

Night and Day

Bye Bye Blackbird

Why Did I Choose You?

You Don’t Know Me

When I Dream

encore: The Man That Got Away

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Nairn Jazz Festival 2002, Part 2

Published in The Herald, Monday August 12, 2002

It may not be in quite the same historic league as Benny Goodman’s legendary gig at the Palomar Ballroom, or Louis Armstrong’s Town Hall concert or the Ellington band’s riot-sparking Newport performance, but American cornet star Ruby Braff’s Wednesday night concert at The Newton Hotel for the Nairn International Jazz Festival was undoubtedly one of those nights which will be talked about for many years to come – at least by those who were there.

Before Braff opened his mouth, things didn’t bode well. Looking frail and wizened, and suffering from emphysema, the 75-year-old made it out of his wheelchair and up onto the stage. Propped up by pillows, he looked as if he should be in the local infirmary rather than in front of an all-star band. However, as soon as he began to talk, it was obvious that the notoriously cantankerous star was in good spirits, reducing the audience and the musicians onstage to tears of laughter with his politically incorrect jokes.

Of course, it wasn’t just the priceless patter which made Braff’s concert such a highlight. It was a fantastic night musically – a perfect example of swinging, melodic chamber jazz. Holding court for well over two hours, Braff brought out the best from an already terrific band which featured Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, John Bunch on piano and Jon Wheatley on guitar.

Rather than taking the easy – and more common – all-star concert option of featuring each soloist individually or dividing the band into different line-ups for different numbers, Braff simply had each musician play a share of the melody before everyone took a solo. The results were sublime, particularly the beautiful, laid-back version of Jerome Kern’s Yesterdays, which prompted Braff to comment: “That was like a nice conversation.”

Braff’s playing gave no indication of his breathing difficulties; indeed, the horn seemed to double as an oxygen mask, and as the evening progressed, he played for longer stints, always with that unique, mellow tone. He was surprisingly generous in his praise for his fellow musicians, and was clearly relishing the opportunity to be playing with Bunch and Hamilton again.

In those wee small hours of Thursday morning, it looked as though the highpoint of the festival had just finished, but there were still treats ahead, among them Scott Hamilton’s lunchtime reunion with pianist Brian Kellock. Kellock hooked up with his own band (John Rae on drums and Kenny Ellis on bass) to join American saxophonist Harry Allen for a gig on Friday evening which proved that the United Reformed Church should probably be a last-resort venue for Nairn jazz. Allen and co rose above acoustic problems and turned in a terrific extended set which left the tenor man raving about Kellock’s trio being the best in Britain.

Aside from the Braff concert, the gig which best summed up the spirit of the Nairn International Jazz Festival was the lunchtime concert by members of the Gully Low Band. Featuring a quartet made up of the magnificent trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, the elegant clarinettist Dan Levinson, virtuoso guitarist Howard Alden and tuba player-bandleader David Ostwald, the first set epitomised the relaxed, informal feel of the best Nairn concerts. This was a rare chance to hear this kind of line-up and their swinging, tasteful performances of such little-played 1920s and 1930s numbers like Diga-Diga-Doo and From Monday On were superb – sheer pleasure.

The relaxed feel of this ensemble was in complete contrast to the more carefully staged and formal atmosphere of the two concerts by the entire Gully Low Jazz Band, on Friday night and Saturday lunchtime. Although this band went down well with audiences, it seemed to lack the joyfulness and spontaneity of the small group sets, and, frankly, leader David Ostwald’s dull announcements were tiresome and unnecessary.

Also more formal and less rewarding than might have been expected was the concert by young stars Benny Green (piano) and Russell Malone (guitar) on Thursday evening. This slick, sharp-suited duo was, unquestionably, a class act but there was a strong sense that they were simply working their way through the material on their album, and that, to them, this was just another stop on the touring itinerary. Which is about as far removed from the one-off, peculiarly Nairn, feel of the Braff concert and the Bob Wilber-Fapy Lafertin gig of earlier in the week.

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2011: Kenny Ellis Trio

Kenny Ellis Trio, Dans Paleis, Thursday July 28th                                      
****

Talk about having the odds stacked against you. The Kenny Ellis Trio’s gig at the Dans Paleis (it was originally to be the Bosco Theatre) really had more than its fair share of obstacles to overcome on Thursday evening. Firstly, there was the monsoon going on outside (which undoubtedly deterred some folk from venturing into the “tented village” in George Square), then there was leaking of sound from the tent next door (which has been a problem throughout the jazz festival, especially for Spiegeltent audiences), and then there was a drum kit which seemed to be playing itself thanks to its reverberating cymbals – either that or Lord Lucan was putting in a guest appearance.

Luckily, bassist Ellis and his cohorts – trombonist Brian Keddie and pianist Brian Kellock – surmounted all these challenges. And in style. These musicians are old friends and, in the case of Ellis and Kellock – who play a weekly gig together – regular collaborators.

What was most apparent on Thursday was how well all three worked together and could second guess each other’s next musical step, and how each gave the other the best possible accompaniment to allow him to shine. As Ellis, commenting on the terrific interplay between the two Brians, said: “Not having drums or other horns just gives you a bit more freedom.” The trombone-piano-bass combo had a lovely gentle feel which worked well in the small tent.

Among the highlights were a gorgeous Everything Happens to Me which showcased Keddie’s lyrical, understated style and Miles Davis’s Nardis, a stand-out for all three musicians but one which was, really, owned by Kellock, whose solo was edge-of-your-seat stuff.

(First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 30th)


			

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