15 October 2018

Above Cowgate

Edinburgh’s old town and its famous castle is built on a volcanic plug so it’s dark and hard and oddly structured. Mostly that’s built over these days, so there are long streetscapes but it requires bridges to cross deep cuts, like Cowgate, and turn a corner and there are long stairways or steep alleyways. It’s the area of the university and hostels and boasts a busy night life. And the Jazz Bar. It’s a simple name. It’s a basement venue and a busy one. The program has 2 or 3 gigs every night, mostly jazz but also funk or the like. And like some other jazz venues, they have a resident big band gathering each monday. I found it interesting that an open rehearsal precedes the gig and I found it amusing that one local corrected someone in the audience for applauding during the rehearsal. It didn’t make much difference: there was applause none-the-less. The band didn’t seem to have a name, just the Jazz Bar’s 17-piece Big Band. The program said it had a variable line-up of pro-class players who come in from Glasgow, Borders, Perth, Fife to play with others from Edinburgh and it’s co-led by two members, saxist Keith Edwards and ex-LA bassist Erik Lars-Hansen. It’s true that they were slick. The repertoire was mostly standards but scored for big band with some delicious colours. That’s one of the wonders of the big band, of course, that colour. One tune seemed to boast a transcribed solo played by a section and that was intricate and exciting. There were some genuinely decent solos, too. That’s something I often find lacking in big bands. My guess is that bb players mainly perform as ensemble members and solos are short so they have little time to extend themselves. The rehearsal was interesting, with starts and stops and repeats from various bar numbers and with some general comments from Erik over the PA about time and feel but the playing still had life. The performance had a little more gig formality and some amusing chatter from the stage for a pretty packed audience and some nicely slick playing. So some great playing of fairly mainstream style and repertoire for a generous audience. Nice.

The Jazz Bar Big Band played at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar with co-leaders Keith Edwards (sax) and Erik Lars-Hansen (bass).

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