Echoes of Ellington/Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra: Ellington 1945 ****
The Echoes of Ellington and Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestras joined forces on Sunday night to celebrate a pivotal period in the history of the Duke and his band.
Drawing from a vast pool of compositions that date to the years on either side of 1945, Echoes’ leader/clarinettist Peter Long and a top-drawer band (decked out, it has to be reported, in two-tone dinner jackets that looked like they were either escapees from a 1970s gameshow or rejects from a Brotherhood of Man tribute band) played such a long concert that even the most devoted ducal devotee was at saturation level a couple of numbers before the end.
Still, until Ellington fatigue set in, everyone – onstage and off – had a great time. Among the many highlights were the big, familiar ballads sung by Georgina Jackson – I’m Beginning to See the Light and I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart, both of which were a first-time treat to hear being performed by full orchestra plus vocals. He Makes Me Believe He’s Mine – a completely unfamiliar (to everyone in the audience, judging by the blank expressions when Long asked who knew it) song with words and music by Billy Strayhorn – was another sumptuous stand-out.
But the biggest thrills were when this band – which included such terrific players as Enrico Tomasso and Ryan Quigley (trumpets), Calum Gourlay (bass), Nick Dawson (piano), Ian Bateman and Gordon Campbell (trombones) and Colin Skinner and Jay Craig (saxes) – let rip on such uptempo numbers as Stomp, Look and Listen, It Don’t Mean a Thing and, especially, the Duke’s extended Take the A Train.
* First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 21st
Richard Pite Hot Five, Tron Kirk, Friday July 17th ****
It’s a shame more people weren’t at the mid-afternoon gig by the Richard Pite Hot Five yesterday. Maybe the falling-off in punters was due to the unfamiliar name of the bandleader (or the Bertie Wooster bow tie he sports in the brochure’s profile pic) – or maybe it was down to the jazz festival’s blurb which mentioned “classic” jazz, but failed to mention who the rest of the band members were. Whatever the reason, this quintet deserved better.
Indeed, it would have been good to know in advance that the front line comprised trumpeter Ryan Quigley and clarinettist Peter Long (not that he bothered to say who he was until an audience member, exasperated by his repeated roll calls which culminated in “me – on clarinet”, asked “who are you?!”).
Quigley’s performance was worth the ticket price alone. On tune after tune, his solos –the epitome of musical swagger and imaginative style – were like electric shocks which jolted the music with their energy. Long must have been thinking along similar lines because no sooner had Quigley had his Frankenstein effect on Honeysuckle Rose than Long announced the next tune as an audience participation exercise, wherein participants had to shout out the title on cue during the number.
It was Puttin’ On the Ritz, clearly inspired by Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein version – and it turned out to be the highlight of the festival thus far. Not because of the audience participation (more voltage required to bring that crowd to life) but because of the sensational playing by all concerned.
* First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 18th
* Mood Indigo
* Honeysuckle Rose
* Puttin’ On the Ritz
* Tea For Two
* Sweet Georgia Brown