We Love Louis, Queen’s Hall, Saturday July 24th ****
Singers Clairdee & Todd Gordon
Louis Armstrong was – as singer Clairdee pointed out at the tribute concert at the Queen’s Hall on Saturday – the first great jazz innovator and an influence on every player who followed him. But he was also, as Saturday’s show highlighted, one of the great pop singers of the 20th century, who sang songs by all the greats, was a beloved entertainer and always injected fun into the proceedings.
This side of him was brilliantly evoked by a generous programme which was stuffed with tunes from throughout Armstrong’s long career. Some – Jeepers Creepers, Basin Street Blues and Hello Dolly, for example – were more strongly associated with him than others (Love Is Here To Stay and Autumn in New York don’t leap to mind when his name is mentioned).
Nevertheless, the spirit of Satchmo was certainly in evidence throughout – in the All Stars-like line-up (a front line of trumpeter Leroy Jones, trombonist Katja Toivola and clarinettist/saxophonist Martin Foster) – and in the easy-going, good-natured rapport onstage, especially between singers Todd Gordon and the afore-mentioned Clairdee, a honey-voiced American, whose Scottish debut this was. Their duets from the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong records were highlights of the night.
Indeed, with her show-stopping interpretation of Summertime – an elegantly restrained reading of the classic Gershwin ballad – and her gorgeous They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Clairdee probably guaranteed a few more bums on seats for her next jazz festival gig on Tuesday.
(First published in The Scotsman, Monday July 25th)
Leroy Jones Quintet, Spiegeltent, Friday July 22nd *** The 33rd Edinburgh Jazz Festival started with a whimper rather than a bang. Why? Because the early evening gig in the Spiegeltent felt like an exercise in time-filling until something more exciting came along.
Trumpeter Leroy Jones may tick all the boxes – he’s a born and bred New Orleans musician, he’s served as a sideman to Harry Connick Jr and he’s got an entertaining stage presence which helps draw in the audience. However, the reality was that his gig was lacklustre; the playing largely unremarkable.
Sharing front line duties with his wife, the trombonist Katja Toivola, Jones offered one hackneyed standard from the trad repertoire after another. Fine for the tourists on Bourbon Street, perhaps, but, really if we have to hear another version of China Boy or Chinatown in our lifetimes, it really should be something spectacular and/or different.
That said, Jones’s peculiarity is that he sounds like a modern player – shades of Clifford Brown and Miles Davis were evident in his solos which veered between fast flurries of notes and cool minimalism – but playing in the New Orleans style. Based on the evidence onstage on Friday night, however, it’s not always a winning combination. Much more appealing were his vocal numbers, but the star of the show was his pianist-for-the-night, David Patrick, whose colourful, rollicking solos should have been the spark that ignited the band …
(First published in The Scotsman, Monday, July 25th)