To read my review of this concert, click here
Tag Archives: Nova Scotia Jazz Band
Yowser. The Edinburgh Jazz Festival ended in party mode on Sunday night with a rip-roaring concert by a group which is not exactly a stranger to Edinburgh audiences. But what the Nova Scotia Jazz Band lacked in exotic appeal it made up for in energy and enthusiasm: this was a terrific gig which ensured that the festival went out with a bang for those of us in attendance. Only a bit of dancing would have added to the fun.
And dancing would certainly have complemented the music which included scorching performances of suchJazz Age pop tunes as Black Bottom and The Charleston. Only bandleader John Burgess’s battle cry of “G’on yersel’!” to banjo player Duncan Finlay on the high-octane opener Goody Goody threatened to shatter the illusion that we were in a1920s Chicago speakeasy.
Playing in the front line of the Nova Scotias for the first time since Mike Daly’s departure, trumpeter Ryan Quigley brought a dynamism to proceedings and delivered a series of superb, red-hot solos on material not normally associated with him. His muted breaks on That Da-Da Strain were especially memorable, along with some beautiful, Chet Baker-esque playing on Embraceable You, a gorgeous duet with pianist Brian Kellock who had earlier threatened to blow the roof of the tent off with his sensational playing, notably on what must be the only version of C Jam Blues to kick off with the Death March theme from Star Wars.
It will be a night to remember for local bass player Roy Percy, too – though not for the cheeriest of reasons: apologising for the late start to the concert, John Burgess explained that Percy, who had been playing earlier in the evening, had fallen from the stage and dislocated his shoulder.
First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 31st
With the right combination of musicians, the duo can be THE most satisfying of jazz line-ups – and this CD is a perfect example. Martin Taylor (guitar) and Alan Barnes (clarinet) have created a beautiful, intimate, album which showcases their rapport and mutual respect and plays out like a series of conversations – some cosy chats, some playful banter and some lively debates. And you don’t have to be a fan of Taylor’s guitar monologues to get a huge kick out of his lovely, warm, lyrical playing on this CD. A joy.
Two early 1960s albums from the underrated tenor and alt saxophonist Sonny Stitt appear on this CD. Now! (1963) finds him asserting himself mostly on the tenor, undoubtedly to shake off the Charlie Parker comparisons, but, with his driving, lyrical style and the Bird-like improvisations, the influence is still very evident. On Salt and Pepper (1964), accompanied by an almost identical classy trio (led by pianist Hank Jones), he goes head to head with the tenor man Paul Gonsalves with memorable results.
An instrumental album paying tribute to a lyricist may seem a bit odd but American tenor saxophonist has a personal connection to Johnny Burke, the writer of such standards as It Could Happen to You, Pennies From Heaven and Like Someone In Love. All of these are included in this lovely CD which finds the eloquent tenor man well-matched with the elegant pianist Sportiello. Their pairing is magic on the ballads especially, and it’s a rare treat to hear some of the seldom played songs Burke co-wrote for Paramount movies as well as such “new” finds as I Wish You Needed Me.
The fourth CD from Scotland’s swinging-est purveyors of hot, Chicago-style, jazz is another wee cracker. This time, the original quartet, headed by cornettist Mike Daly and clarinettist/saxophonist John Burgess, is joined by their regular special guest Brian Kellock on piano – and the results are superb, notably such lesser-played numbers as Shim Me Sha Wabble and That Da Da Strain. Only possible quibble? I’ll Be a Friend With Pleasure is such a pretty, poignant tune, it would be a treat to hear what Daly and Kellock could do with it at a slower speed.
The quartet of 1950s/1960 LPs featured on this double CD showcases almost every one of jazz legend Benny Carter’s talents: as composer, arranger, alto saxophonist, tenor saxophonist and trumpeter. These LPs also find him in the top-notch company of the likes of Ben Webster, Andre Previn, Jimmy Rowles, Frank Rosolino and Barney Kessel – all of whom play on the opening album, the terrific Jazz Giant – and Earl Hines. It’s perhaps not essential Carter – but a superb snapshot of the great man in his (very long) middle period.
The last night of the jazz festival got off to a jubilant start – thanks to the Edinburgh-based Nova Scotia Jazz Band, which included two special guests, Jack Wilson (drums) and Brian Kellock (the pianist who recently won the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Instrumentalist in the UK, and who has probably notched up more diverse jazz festival engagements this week than any other single musician).
Playing to a stowed-out Spiegeltent, the band dished up a programme of rousing Dixieland and classic jazz tunes and had feet stomping from the off. This was happy, unpretentious jazz – and it was a treat to get to hear such a top-notch band playing it. Nova Scotia may be a relatively young outfit (only formed a few years ago), but the front-line of John Burgess (clarinet and tenor sax) and Mike Daly (cornet) gel so well you would think they’d been playing together for decades.
Among the many highlights – most of which were crammed into the first half – were the sultry ballads New Orleans and When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, both of which showcased the warmth and richness of this ensemble’s sound and, especially, the lovely burnished tone of Mike Daly’s cornet, and his lyrical style. Kellock, who was in dynamic form, ramped the band’s performance up the Richter scale on a thrilling Riverboat Shuffle and After You’ve Gone, before duetting with Burgess (on saxophone) on an unforgettable and moving version of Georgia, dedicated to their old friend, the late Tam White (see clip below).
(First published in The Scotsman, Tuesday August 2nd.)
CDs of Annie Ross’s original albums have been difficult to get hold of in recent years so this two-disc set – which comprises four complete, classic 1950s LPs (Annie By Candlelight, Gypsy, A Gasser! and Sings a Song With Mulligan!) plus an EP (Nocturne for Vocalist) and six other tracks from the same era – is an absolute gem. Her cool yet sultry vocals are particularly beautifully showcased on the intimate British recording Annie By Candlelight, but she more than holds her own alongside jazz legends Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims and Stan Getz on the bigger band albums.
British multi-instrumentalist Alan Barnes doesn’t seem to do bad choices – in terms of repertoire, line-up or performance. And this new CD, a follow-up to last year’s terrific Doodle-oodle, finds him reunited with fellow clarinettist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski – this time within a larger band. The two headliners’ rapport shines through, and both play at the top of their game on a selection of tracks from the back catalogues of Ellington, Strayhorn and the great altoist Johnny Hodges whose music is a particular delight to hear.
This duo’s 2005 album, When Lights Are Low, revealed Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (piano and vocals) and Claire Martin (vocals) to be the Fred and Ginger of the jazz world: while he gives her class, she gives him sex appeal. The same applies to this new collection of songs by composer Cy Coleman – though the distinctions are a bit more blurred. Coleman’s music isn’t the most memorable, but the witty, sophisticated lyrics of his collaborators – especially the Dorothy Parker-like Carolyn Leigh – are a joy to hear, and Bennett and Martin deliver them with relish and style.
This Edinburgh quartet is only two years old but its classy, uplifting sound suggests that its members have been playing together for much longer. This is their third album and it’s a wee gem of upmarket traditional jazz. The burnished tone of Mike Daly’s cornet complements the spikier, Pee Wee Russell-esque clarinet played by John Burgess when he’s not on sax duty. Only possible complaint is that it would have been nice to hear more lesser-played numbers and fewer trad staples.