Tag Archives: Tron Kirk

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2015: Warren Vaché Trio/Scott Hamilton Trio

Warren Vaché Trio/Scott Hamilton Trio, Tron Kirk *****photo 4-2

It’s been too long since either cornettist Warren Vaché or tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton – once fixtures of the jazz festival – played in Edinburgh, so their back-to-back sets at the Tron on Sunday afternoon were eagerly anticipated by those of us whose love of swinging, tuneful, unpretentious jazz owes much to these two American stars.

A relaxed Vaché kicked off proceedings with a gorgeous set which was warm, intimate and full of good humour – until the coffee machine and the venue’s WD40-deficient kitchen door joined in. (Any steam that might have come out of the Vaché ears was channelled into a fiery, rafters-raising It’s Alright With Me.) Why the staff didn’t leave the door open and keep coffee off the menu for the duration of his acoustic set is a mystery and it clearly irritated both musicians and listeners alike, and threatened to upset the mood of the afternoon.

Despite the distractions, Vaché was on great form. On such exquisite ballads as How Long Has This Been Going On?, his gentle, tender cornet was cushioned by the terrific duo of Danish guitarist Jacob Fischer – a dazzlingly attentive, responsive and inventive player who masterfully wove Vaché’s melodic lines into his accompaniment or embroidered around them – and eloquent American bassist John Webber.

Scott Hamilton took over the same trio for his hour-long set which – despite his warming up on Vache’s closing number, How About You? – took a little while to get going, and climaxed with a couple of beautiful bossa ballads. (He even, in a historic Edinburgh first, played some piano!) Early on, he explained that he was confining himself to the tempo at which his fingers could work on a borrowed sax. “I flew up with Ryanair,” he said. “Need I say more?!”

* First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 21st

Warren Vaché Trio

* Tangerine

* My Shining Hour

* How Long Has This Been Going On?

* blues

* Misty

* It’s Alright With Me

* God Bless the Child

* How About You? (+ Scott Hamilton)

Scott Hamilton Trio

* I Hear a Rhapsody

* Swingin’ Till the Girls Come Home

*All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm

* The Girl From Ipanema

* Sunday

* The Shadow of Your Smile


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Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2015: Davina and the Vagabonds

Davina and the Vagabonds, Tron Kirk, Friday July 17th ***

This was supposed to be a write-up of first two gigs of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, which kicked off yesterday lunchtime, but the wonderful, long-serving, local band the Diplomats of Jazz escaped review because a couple of numbers into their set, cornettist/vocalist and leader Jim Petrie took ill and the concert was, understandably, abandoned while an ambulance was called.

And so the gig which launched this reviewer’s festival turned out to be the first of this year’s quartet of performances by Davina and the Vagabonds, an American band which – judging by the impressive turn-out yesterday lunchtime – clearly made some friends during the 2014 event.

Davina, who sings and leads the quintet from the piano, is an ebullient, wisecracking and appealing personality with a striking 1940s look – she’s Julie Kavner crossed with Dita Von Teese. She did her best to engage with the punters despite getting a crick in her neck trying to do said engaging over one shoulder, as her piano was facing into an audience-less corner. Vocally, and in her choice of (mostly R&B) material, she recalled Amy Winehouse – at times the resemblance was quite uncanny.

Unfortunately, much of the original, repetitive and brass-heavy, material her band performed didn’t allow her to shine and when they turned their hands to Fats Waller’s repertoire – in particular Louisiana Fairytale – it was almost like a pastiche. Easily the stand-out was Etta James’s I Would Rather Go Blind which was a vocal tour-de-force; absolutely electrifying.

* First published in The Scotsman, Saturday July 18th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2014: Conal Fowkes Solo/Stephanie Trick Trio

Conal Fowkes/Stephanie Trick, Tron Kirk, Wednesday July 23rd ****

Two pianists headlined the late afternoon programme at the Tron Kirk on Wednesday, and brought back memories of classic jazz festival “Pianoramas” which highlighted diverse styles of playing on that instrument. Mind you, all diversity was focused into the first session, by Conal Fowkes, who plays piano in Woody Allen’s traditional jazz band.

Fowkes opened his solo set with Take the A Train – the A Train being the line that went to Harlem – and then took the audience on a whistlestop tour of the legendary piano players who emerged from that neighbourhood. Like Dick Hyman, his predecessor as chief musical collaborator on Allen movies, Fowkes is an expert on the different early piano styles and he evoked such greats as James P Johnson, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington in a personal way, with a loose, laidback approach.

The highlights were the last four numbers – all from the Ellington canon – and they included a mesmerisingly lovely Lotus Blossom (the more moving for Fowkes’s explanation of its background) and two 1920s compositions not usually played as piano solos – the gorgeous ballad Black Beauty and the spirits-lifting closer Jubilee Stomp.

Stephanie Trick, who took to the same stage a little later along with clarinettist/saxophonist Engelbert Wrobel and drummer Bernard Flegar, also took the audience to Harlem but she got stuck at Fats Waller. Every tune – whether uptempo or ballad (and even ballads were taken at a brisk pace) – were given the stride treatment, though the all-important left hand was not very strong and she didn’t seem comfortable when she wasn’t playing solo. It’s tempting to say she’s a one Trick pony, but it’s early days – she’s not yet 30 years old.

First published in The Herald, Friday July 25th

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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2013: Vieux Carre Jazzmen/Shreveport Rhythm

Vieux Carre Jazzmen, Tron Kirk, Edinburgh, Saturday July 20th **

Saturday late afternoon at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival’s much talked about new venue the Tron Kirk was always going to be an interesting experience. A centrally located venue, serving food and drink, it has no toilets inside – the jazz festival programme directs punters to the public toilets in Hunter Square; toilets which most of us have earmarked as “for emergency use only”.

The atmosphere on Saturday for the set by Newcastle band the Vieux Carre Jazzmen was very much that of a Saturday afternoon in the pub – it seemed as if the people who most enjoyed the experience were those who had paid a fiver to come in for a pint with musical accompaniment and were happy to chat through it rather than those who had come to hear some festival standard jazz.

Maybe the drinkers knew something that the rest of us didn’t: that, in the old days, the Vieux Carre Jazzmen would have been playing on the pub trail – rather than a ticketed gig. Certainly, even allowing for the dodgy acoustics, it sounded like a pub band (albeit one with an impressive, George Lewis-like, clarinettist) – and their men-down-the-pub “image” merely reflected that of the appreciative members of the audience.

The antidote to the depressingly familiar trad experience offered by the Vieux Carres turned out to be a dose of Shreveport Rhythm, a young, nattily-attired and charismatic German quartet which impressed with wonderful performances of everything from Beiderbecke, Basie and Bechet hits to crowd-pleasing jive numbers. Leader Helge Sachs dazzled with his clarinet and soprano sax playing, notably on a gorgeous Blue in Thirds and a red hot That’s a Plenty.

First published in The Herald, Monday July 22nd 2013

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