In amongst the crowd-pleasing hurly-burly and boogie-woogie brought to Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival audiences courtesy of Jools Holland, Curtis Stigers and Kyle Eastwood in terms of mainstream jazz, it was good to come across a few smaller gigs which show that modern jazz still has a few tricks up its sleeves.
This year, a fair few of these shows took place in the Bosco Theatre in George Square. The smallest of the three pavilions erected to lure in the masses once the Edinburgh Fringe goes into hyperdrive, the Bosco also suffers from poor air conditioning, zero soundproofing and seating which would make a church pew seem comfy.
The soundproofing issue is more important than our sore posteriors, as particularly during Paul Kirby’s set his delicately robust quartet are near drowned out by Lazy Lester and the John Bruce Band’s pile-driving blues-rock set coming from the Spiegeltent. It spills in and near obscures the sound in the Bosco, to such an extent that pianist Kirby at times clearly struggles to count his band in.
Happily, when in full swing, Kirby and East-West produce a quite beguiling form of chamber jazz. Kirby is a cerebral presence at the piano, while his long term bass cohort Martin Zenker plucks away with gusto (though he struggles with the deafening blues coming from the other side of the square during his solos). South Korean drummer Kim Minchan grounds everything unobtrusively, but the star of the set is alto sax player Jin Pureum. A diminutive but authoritative presence, she’s clearly a talent to watch out for.
The next evening at the Bosco, thankfully without accompanying blues, is the Scandic duo of Haftor Medboe on guitar with Anneke Kampman singing, joined tonight by Konrad Wisniewski on tenor saxophone.
Basically a song cycle encircled by environmental recordings, it’s hard to tell what there is jazz or blues about this performance. It’s quite pleasant, but Kampman’s vocals depend too greatly on the Bjork default setting all too common now amongst female pop singers and the songs themselves are, frankly, dull. But they receive an enthusiastic audience, and Wisniewski makes the evening sing, particularly on the sole jazz break-out in which he duets with Medboe’s smooth guitar lines.