2004 Starbucks Jazz and Blues
There's a definite feel to this Jazz & Blues Festival of looking back.
But not a 'wallow in nostalgia' feel. More 'a new generation meets and jams
with the masters' thing. And that's very exciting. They say that jazz is a never-ending
stream, constantly changing and impossible to pin down. They say, too, that
the essence of great jazz lies in innovation born out of constantly listening
to each other.
The stream is jazz itself, that big picture made up of the music and musicians
all flowing along and caught up in its energy. So there's a fair chunk of trad
jazz. There's New Orleans dixieland from the band who cut the very first jazz
record, the five piece Original Dixieland Jazz Band formed in 1917 with
Nick LaRocca as Leader. No, not the original band reincarnated but the one under
the direction of Nick's son Jimmy - here, live, for the very first time. We
could hardly get closer to the origins than that.
Also getting pretty close is the silver haired 83 year old John Bunch,
one-time sideman for legendary names such as Benny Goodman, who returns to the
Hub with his trio to treat his audience to a masterly, totally authentic, survey
of great jazz and piano styles, old and new. So here's another current in the
stream being heard, first hand.
Swinging to the other extreme for a moment, the headline stars Wynton Marsalis,
bringing his Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra to the Usher Hall and Van
Morrison on stage at the Playhouse, represent two additional, very different
fusion currents fuelling jazz and its constanty bubbling creativity by feeding
into it from their own very different specialities and then enriching these
with ideas born out of jazz. And, of course, there's our own Salsa Celtica
adding a whole new definition to the fusion of high octane jazz and exotic traditional
Van the Man, playing rock music since he was 12 years old, has become a giant
of contemporary music, mixing and blending it over the years with soul, blues
and jazz to present his own instantly recognised sound and style. New Orleans-born
Marsalis is a master of classical music and of jazz in all its forms and equally
at home in either. A performer, teacher and composer he is very much at home
in whatever aspect of music he happens to be performing, be it small combo,
intimate jazz or with his formidably talented Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra,
so Edinburgh can expect exciting gigs, showing off jazz plus tasty, spicy flavours.
Innovative jazz, born out of really, really listening to each other, being
sparked off then throwing the results about like a musical basketball is alive
and well, whether it's at individual band level or in new combinations. Otis
Grand and the Big Blues Band show how it's done, West Coast style. And that
other Morrison, Barbara, makes a welcome second visit in this, her 30th
year in the jazz, blues and soul business, having honed her vocal style while
working with some of the greatest legends from Dizzy Gillespie to Tony Bennett.
Great things can be expected when Humph gigs with Stacey Kent.
And also when the Charlie Haden New Liberation Music Orchestra and Carla
Bley strike sparks off each other.
To show what the younger generation have learnt from - and owe to - their elders,
there are tribute gigs to Thelonius Monk
by our own Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the BBC Big Band
shows off the debt to Count Basie, the Mellotones
pay homage to Mel Tormé and Evan
Christopher plays Sidney Bechet.
There's a distinct Norwegian slant to many of the events. Indeed, there's even
a couple of innings of an aptly-named Jazz Smorgasbord to whet the appetite
for jazz from this very exciting, innovative country. There are, sadly, far
too many wonderful choices, both rooted here in Scotland and from abroad, on
this year's menu to talk about in detail. But there's also a wee touch of wacky
stuff at Henry's Jazz Cellar when Trianglehead
gig with the Norwegians, Rocco and Bancroft meet, and the Latin Quarter
mix latin and jazz funk. And so very much more....
Two free events over the opening weekend show off live tasters of the feast
in store, when Mardi Gras happens in the Grassmarket and Jazz on a
Summer's Day (itself a homage to the legendary Newport Jazz Festival) swings
at the Ross Bandstand.
© Pat Napier. 22 July 2004
|The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival runs
from 30 July - 8 August in four main venues. For more information
click on www.jazzmusic.co.uk