Brian Molley & Mario Caribe’s Brazilian Quartet, Salon Elegance, Saturday July 28th ***
Taking refuge in a tent where warm, Brazilian music was on the bill was the only sensible option in the early part of Saturday evening, when a monsoon was raging over Edinburgh. The unpredictable and often downright abysmal weather has played a significant part in this year’s jazz festival experience: whereas during the glorious sunshine of last year’s event, the George Square Gardens was a bustling hub last year, where you could meet and mingle, this year, spending any time there has been a calculated risk.
So it was an appreciative – if soggy – crowd which settled down for the music of Brian Molley and Mario Caribe’s Brazilian Quartet. Saxophonist Molley and bassist Caribe are well known on the Scottish music, but the other half of the band comprised two of Caribe’s fellow Brazilians, Fabio Torres (piano) and Edu Ribiero (drums), flown in from Sao Paolo for this project which featured almost exclusively original compositions.
These musicians may not be regular collaborators but they made up a tight unit, and are clearly of a similar state of musical mind. The numbers played may have been penned by different members of the band but there was a flow to the programme of the concert because of the stylistic similarities.
What seemed to be missing, unfortunately, was the classic Brazilian jazz vibe – the way in which the great Stan Getz recordings of the 1960s delivered the balmy bossa or sultry samba feel with a breezy coolness. This was less warm, but very dry – and a bit too repetitive. Which is perhaps why, once the rain eased up outside, there was something of a minor exodus from the concert…
First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th
Cecile McLorin Salvant Quartet, Salon Elegance, Thursday July 26th
It’s not often you feel you’re in the presence of greatness but there was probably not one person in the Salon Elegance tent at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival on Thursday night who did not sense that they were in close proximity to a great new voice.
The 22-year-old singer Cecile McLorin Salvant is quite something to behold. She has an extraordinarily versatile voice which mesmerised the audience whether she was singing a gentle ballad or putting over a sexy, salty blues. Only the recurring problem of the beat of the music from elsewhere in George Square infiltrating the tent threatened to snap anyone out of the Salvant spell which was especially effective on the gorgeous ballads There’s a Lull in My Life and Born To Be Blue, both of which showcased the luscious, rich quality to her wide-ranging voice and the way she brings every word to life.
That aspect was particularly evident on Love For Sale where her habits of distorting vowels, plunging deep into her range and making unexpectedly ugly sounds were used to powerful, dramatic effect, underlying her disgust at the scene she was depicting – a technique which brought Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit to mind. The tragic piece of folk lore encapsulated in a spiritual entitled John Henry also benefitted from Salvant’s gift for storytelling. That song was one of a handful which might be almost five times as old as she is: it was a glorious treat to hear the seldom-performed blues Oh Daddy and to be introduced to Bert Williams song Nobody.
Many of the songs may have been from the 1920s and 1930s, but Salvant brought them vividly back to life – and, what was surprising was the agelessness about her performance: only such jubilant, energetic numbers as the wonderful Valaida Snow song I Can’t Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants) and What a Little Moonlight Can Do served as a reminder of the fact that she is not an older singer.
First published in The Herald, Monday July 30th
Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra Salutes the Kings of Jazz, Salon Elegance, Tuesday July 24th ****
Five days into the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and even the most seasoned campaigner can begin to lag. Thank the lord, then, for Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra and its Beiderbecke-heavy Tuesday evening programme. There is nothing like a blast of Bix to buoy this girl’s flagging spirits – and the CJO obliged, in style, serving up so many uplifting and jubilant 1920s hits that it was almost impossible to resist the urge to rouge one’s knees, bob one’s hair and embark on a dance marathon with gay abandon (if not a gay friend).
The Beiderbecke repertoire is packed with gems which Mathieson has dusted off and lovingly arranged for his eight-piece band, and it’s always a delight to hear them being played with so much panache and enthusiasm – and especially by such terrific younger players as trombonist Phil O’Malley and tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski.
One of the particular joys of the CJO’s interpretations of Bix music is the way in which the cornettist’s unforgettable and often exquisite solos have been retained and arranged for the entire outfit to play, often in unison – and, on Tuesday, a highlight was the famous I’m Comin’ Virginia solo which trumpeter Billy Hunter began on his own before being joined by le tout ensemble.
Other stand-outs in this Bix bonanza were From Monday On, Ostrich Walk and There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears which featured a dazzling solo from Wiszniewski who was also memorably showcased on Buddy Tate’s Idlin’ – from the non-Beiderbecke part of the programme.
First published in The Herald on Thursday, July 26th
There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears
Old Stack O’Lee Blues
Big Butter and Egg Man
I’m Comin’ Virginia
Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down
Can’t We Be Friends
From Monday On
Jack the Bear
Singin’ the Blues