None = Unmissable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme
The Scots fiddle (page 96)
Drams a dram to only to support the mood
Musicians Paul Anderson (fiddle) and Ali Napier (keyboard and guitar)
Venue Cafe Royal Bistro (Venue 47)
Address 17 West Register Street
Reviewer Pat Napier
In his rich Aberdeenshire accent, Paul introduced us to the world of real, traditional music, the reels, jigs, strathspeys of the North East, of Shetland and of the Hebridean islands, and included some of his own compositions inspired by them. Sometimes Ali played the keyboard and at others, the guitar. The first half was a littled marred for me by the rather over-loud keyboard sound, which tended to unbalance the music and Ali sang a little too close to the mike so that Rattlin' roarin' Willie roared a wee bittie too much. The second half, though, had no such problems with a much better sound balance. The big strathspey set headed up by Tullochgoram and ending with The hurricane, a virtuoso Scott Skinner piece was right in the groove.
This UK premiere show was important for Paul Anderson's own compositions. His music ranged from the romantic, lilting, 'soft-focus' two piece set Heather and Ailie and A Hogmanay engagement, through the haunting, atmospheric slow air Luskentyre to the unlikely, but successful, pairing of the ancient pipe tune commemorating Robert the Bruce's 13th century Siege of Coull Castle with his own tune, the reel Big Jock, who, we learned, is a 'real character' a 7 foot tall mechanic, born Charles Smith but always known as Big Jock, captured in very fast, very bright fiddle music backed by energetic, strumming guitar.
The true beauty and versatility of Scots fiddle music became clear when Paul began the seconfd half with some solo fiddle jigs, where the double stopping, varied harmonics and rhythms could be fully appreciated. These were contrasted by the 400 year old Skye tune Lament for Maccrimmond. Along the way, we heard the stories behind the music and felt drawn in to the traditions. Lest we felt that we were too much in the past, this suspicion was efficiently dispelled by Paul's launch into the tunes he wrote for his granny and his mum respectively: A waltz for Alice and Anne Anderson's waltz. His mum's love of Country and Western music was clearly interwoven into the North East tradition. A set of dazzling reels followed and the whole show ended with on an almighty explostion of show-topping virtuosity in the American hoe-down style Orange blossom special. Sadly, as we were all just getting well and truly into it, time ran out. No time for an encore! The rest of the week should be pretty damn good.
© Pat Napier 12 August 2002 Image: © Mary Morton Wright
Run ends 18 August 2002.
Paul Anderson was interviewed on 17 August 2002: Radio 3 World Routes 1-2pm at Dance Base, Edinburgh
Sinatra 1953-68: 15 very good years (page 97)
Musicians Todd Gordon (vocalist); David Patrick (piano); John Allen (bass); Stuart Brown (drums)
Promoters Strictly Songtime
Venue Stockbridge House (Venue 148)
Address 2 Cheyne Street
Reviewer Pat Napier
This very polished show, full of the finest, best-loved melodies from Frank Sinatra's greatest years, was a World Premiere presented just two days before Old Blue eyes' daughter Nancy swept into town in a blaze of publicity. That's a shame, because she might have been in the audience (or even contributed a set?), if the timing had been right. Fanciful? Wishful thinking? Just a local singer's dream? I think not.
Todd Gordon prefaced his show in his own modest words "I'm no Sinatra and Dave's no Nelson Riddle". But his audience knew better. This very small combo swiftly set the tone by giving us some inspired arrangements, created just the right atmosphere and soon we were there, in Sintatra's very special magical song-spinning world. Not Sinatra and not Riddle but Gordon and Patrick had put together a very well-thought-out show, set chronologically down these vintage years, with a few words defining the strengths of each section. Sinatra's early songs, for me, have always been less attractive but after he dropped his voice to a much richer rage, he just got greater and greater and now I knew why.
Some especially outstanding songs were: You make me feel so youg; It's witchcraft; The lady is a tramp (with a very good piano riff); It was a very good year; the brash, 'contemporary' That's life; and finally (just because Sinatra did it so well) the 1928 Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht Mack the Knife. So many memories, so many great song writers, such brilliant, inspired arrangers - all were invoked. One criticism: several times the piano accompaniment was a tad too heavy and loud for the songs. Maybe it was the hall but maybe it was the piano. Blüthners aren't the most sensitive instruments. I should know - we have one: beautiful, singing aliquot ovetones but brutes to coax out gentle, delicate sounds. Don't miss any of Todd Gordon's future shows. You never know who'll be there!
© Pat Napier. 15 August 2002
Run continues: Fri/Sat August 16/17 and 23/24 at 22:00-23:20hrs and Sun August 18 and 25 at 20:00-21:20hrs.
The Song and Dance Man (page 97)
Venue The Balmoral Hotel
Address 1 Princes Street
Reviewer Neil Ingram
In this new Fringe show, the velvet voice of Craig McMurdo takes us back to the glamorous world of sixties Las Vegas, ruled by the music of the Rat Pack. In a packed room the small stage at times looked rather crowded, but this was not really a distraction as it created an intimate atmosphere, even if the sound quality was at first rather variable.
On the opening night the usual delays, and a glowing introduction from the Lord Provost, led to a rather hesitant start, but once we were a few numbers in the entertainment took off. Craig's voice is smooth but surprisingly strong, giving him great variation and subtlety. This showed best in a set of songs from the musical "Chicago", and in the Dean Martin songs, Nat King Cole's "Let There Be Love" and a Frank Sinatra encore. He also worked the audience well, so we relaxed and enjoyed it just as he did. The show was driven along by the band, That Swing Thang, with some fine piano work from Matt O'Regan. The backing singers, The Swing Cats, also did very well on their own, especially with "Satin Doll", and Laura Ellis sang a duet with Craig on "Something Stupid" . The Hot Scotch Dancers added the glamour with some stunning costumes and slick steps, and Craig kept them all together with his polished presentation. This is more than a tribute show, Craig is a fine singer, and his interpretation of the songs gives them a new life. It's a classy way to celebrate the centenary of one of Edinburgh's most notable buildings, the North British Hotel (even if it's called something else these days!)
Runs Until 16 August at 19.30
© Neil Ingram 29 July 2002 www.craigmurdo.co.uk