Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
Wednesday 23 July, Day #6 - 1

What a difference a day makes. My (inevitable) mid-Festival slump. No reflection on the performers, simply that six days in, and I’m feeling a little tired, which I know affects my ability to listen and appreciate.

Started promisingly with Colin Steel & co. @ the Tron Kirk (Remembering Chet). Iain Ewing’s vocals excellent, and sounding close to the Chet originals. Prefer Iain’s singing style to what can be the over mannered delivery of some of his contemporaries. Euan Stevenson also excellent on piano.

Stephanie Trick Trio @ the Tron Kirk. Accomplished player who can swing. However, sounded a little soulless to my slump ears.

Fapy Lafertin Trio @ Palazzo Spiegeltent. A gypsy guitar maestro and his formidable rhythm section. Dazzling and beautiful playing, but I have to admit being left feeling a little cold.

Haftor Medboe Group (plus support who’s name I didn’t catch) @ Festival Theatre Studio. I have heard Haftor at a number of Festivals over the last few years. Always impressed by his ECM cool. Concert to a degree spoiled for me by the ‘pro photographer’ in the audience (I assume he was a ‘pro’ given the tons of gear he was lugging around). Getting in the way, and visually disruptive. I try to be as invisible as possible, but still can get what I’m looking for. Appeared to me that he had little or no interest in the music.

Hannah Williams & The Tastemaker @ Spiegeltent. The highlight of my evening. Raw, edgy, vocal power. A soul funktress at the front of a very tight band. Had the audience right in the palm of her hand. Excellent live show.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
Tuesday 22 July, Day #5 - 3

To these ears, this year’s Festival just gets better and better (we are now at the halfway point). Is it simply my general good mood at being in my photography/music zone, or is it that the programming (whatever your tastes) is very strong? Today proved to be another stunner.

Ben Prestage @ the Tron Kirk. One on my ‘red list’, of must hear/see. A one man band (vocals, guitar, harmonica, and drums). The point of comparison is obvious (Seasick). Having seen and heard both, consider little between them, apart from a few years. An artist steeped in the Mississippi Blues. Brilliant! So good that I intend to be at his other performances during the Festival!

Martynas Levickis & Euan Stevenson (Miles to Classics) @ Festival Theatre Studio. An inspiring pairing of two classically trained musicians.  Played standards from the Classic and Jazz repertoire, but what was even better was their own compositions. Particularly liked the Phillip Glass like piece by Levickis. Accordion playing the like of which I have never heard before (I don’t even like accordion normally).

Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra @ Palazzo Spiegeltent. Sharp arrangements, hot and tight mix, of Western swing, gypsy jazz, blues, Cajun, and country. Most intrigued by the young couple in their own world dancing at the side throughout. Asked what they called what they were doing. Was told “a mix of Tango, Salsa, and anything else we can think off”. You can’t say fairer than that.

Then, last but definitely not least, Rumba de Bodas @ the Tron Kirk. Party music of the highest order from this Italian outfit. Clearly part of the drive to attract a young audience, who simply want a good time and to have a bit of a dance. Nothing wrong with that.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
Tuesday 22 July, Day #5 - 3

To these ears, this year’s Festival just gets better and better (we are now at the halfway point). Is it simply my general good mood at being in my photography/music zone, or is it that the programming (whatever your tastes) is very strong? Today proved to be another stunner.

Ben Prestage @ the Tron Kirk. One on my ‘red list’, of must hear/see. A one man band (vocals, guitar, harmonica, and drums). The point of comparison is obvious (Seasick). Having seen and heard both, consider little between them, apart from a few years. An artist steeped in the Mississippi Blues. Brilliant! So good that I intend to be at his other performances during the Festival!

Martynas Levickis & Euan Stevenson (Miles to Classics) @ Festival Theatre Studio. An inspiring pairing of two classically trained musicians. Played standards from the Classic and Jazz repertoire, but what was even better was their own compositions. Particularly liked the Phillip Glass like piece by Levickis. Accordion playing the like of which I have never heard before (I don’t even like accordion normally).

Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra @ Palazzo Spiegeltent. Sharp arrangements, hot and tight mix, of Western swing, gypsy jazz, blues, Cajun, and country. Most intrigued by the young couple in their own world dancing at the side throughout. Asked what they called what they were doing. Was told “a mix of Tango, Salsa, and anything else we can think off”. You can’t say fairer than that.

Then, last but definitely not least, Rumba de Bodas @ the Tron Kirk. Party music of the highest order from this Italian outfit. Clearly part of the drive to attract a young audience, who simply want a good time and to have a bit of a dance. Nothing wrong with that.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
Monday 21 July, Day #4 -1

First stop Lorna Reid celebrating the Jazz Divas @ the Tron Kirk, accompanied by a three piece band that included Colin Steele on trumpet. Good singer. Home grown talent who covered the work of Billie and Ella.

Next up, delta inspired country blues courtesy of Otis Taylor @ QH. Last year it was Tia’s shoes, this year it was Anne Harris in tu tu and ‘Love’ leggings. ‘Trance Blues’, I certainly was. Only wished I could have stayed longer. Logistics a little challenging this evening, with a number of concerts I needed to get to running simultaneously.

To my favourite venue (it’s all about the music) the Festival Theatre Studio, to tune-in to the future stars of the ebony and ivory. Fergus McCreadie, so young, so talented. A bright future ahead. Enrico Zanisi. Heard him play earlier in the Festival with the Enzo Favata Quartet. The publicity says ‘the young superstar of Italian jazz’. I have to concur with that statement. Hugely talented player, with much of the material his own. Had to move on at this point so apologies that I didn’t catch the Alan Benzie Trio.

… and so to Zara McFarlane @ the Palazzo Spiegeltent. Sophisticated, deeply soulful, an absolute joy to listed too. ‘Police & Thieves’, perfection. It felt like slipping into a warm bath after a hard day. Loved it.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2014
Sunday 20 July, Day #3 - 1

For me it all began around 1970/71 when I first heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra I think on a programme called ‘In Concert’ on the BBC. I was blown away. I had heard nothing like it before. From there it was but a short step to Miles and Bitches Brew. I was hooked. My Jazz education (initially through Fusion) had begun. It has followed the many directions Jazz has taken over the decades since, but has also taken me back to the beginning of the story, and the vast ever changing history of the music.

… which brings me to Mike Stern & Bill Evans & QH. Blown away all over again! The only thing that could have made it even better for me, would have been if John McLaughlin had made a guest appearance (organisers of the Jazz Festival please take note).

Second concert of the night was Phil Bancroft Quartet with guest Phil O’Malley (trombone) & Trio AAB @ Festival Theatre Studio (my favourite venue this year – the sound is superb). Definitely one of my highlights of the Festival so far. Excellent playing from all involved. If you weren’t there (small audience) you really missed out on this one.

To round off the night – the Hackney Colliery Band @ the Tron Kirk. Another sell out concert. Young band, young audience. Prodigy, Roni Size, Ska, Amy, and stuff I recognised but couldn’t name, delivered by a Brass Band … Crowd pleasing, good fun.