Havana Swing, EJBF 2012, Review
George Square’s Spiegel Tent rang to the tones of manouche last night as the Havana Swing Band welcomed fans of gypsy jazz from everywhere.
On entering the tent, you’d be forgiven for expecting a line-up of elderly Cuban gentleman grasping their guitars. Actually, what you would find is four Scottish guys from Dundee ready to play their hearts out to an expectant crowd.
Over the course of the twenty-two song performance, Havana Swing treated the audience to as many Django Reinhardt covers as they could want. They punctuated this with their own occasional compositions and a couple Django-fied Patsy Cline and Bob Dylan hits.
Instrumentally, Double bass player Calum McKenzie and Clarinetist Walter Smith kept the tempo fun and upbeat. But it was lead guitarists Ashley Malcom and John Whyte who stole the show as they sizzled through their solos. While not quite as pristinely as the great gypsy jazz guitarist himself, they certainly put in enough effort to keep the audience wrapped for the duration.
Frustratingly, the band as a whole suffered from a near fatal case of self-congratulation. Every solo, whether it was ten seconds or two minutes, warranted an applause from the band. Yes a great bit of playing deserves recognition but not three or four times a song, every song.
Sadly not all was as smooth when it came to vocals. More often than not, McKenzie’s deep voice would skew off into the realms of cruise singer any time he got his tongue wrapped around a note. Thankfully vocal accompaniment was few and far between.
At the end of the day though. Havana Swing not only had the audience in the palm of their hands but up on the dance floor too, and that’s never a bad thing.