Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival 40th Anniversary opening gala at Assembly Hall on Mound Place brought not only some of the leading jazz lights of Scotland (and the world) to the one stage tonight, but also illustrated just how far this festival has come since its humble beginning as a one day event at the old Astoria Ballroom in Abbeyhill.
On stage were Seonaid Aitken, Rose Room, Martin Taylor, Brian Kellock, Tommy Smith, Carol Kidd, Konrad Wiszniewski, and other great musicians who have contributed enormously to the life-blood of Scottish jazz over the years, and continue to do so.
Having a very busy, and obviously enjoyable evening, Seonaid Aitken was in classic form as our evening host and performer, both solo, and with her band Rose Room. Seonaid is definitely having a great 2018, having recently been voted Best Vocalist (2nd year running) at The Scottish Jazz awards 2018. Rose Room also won “best band” award (also nominated last year too). Listening to Seonaid’s vocals and impressive fiddle playing with Rose Room with Jimmy Moon (double bass), Tam Gallagher (rhythm guitar) and Tom Watson (lead guitar and vocals) on “Edge of Love” and “Menilmontant” and other gypsy jazz/Django Reinhardt inspired music, it is easy to see why Rose Room won their award this year. A classic performance of “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You” by Seonaid with guitar legend Martin Taylor also clearly highlighted why Seonaid Aitken is one of the great voices of contemporary jazz.
Obviously having an equally enjoyable time on stage, Brian Kellock with an always impressive display of his wide ranging abilities as a pianist and members of his trio, Kenny Ellis (bass) and John Rae (drums).
For anyone loving the sounds of saxophones, this show would have been seventh heaven with the combined talents of Tommy Smith and Konrad Wiszniewski on stage. Guitar lovers of course were treated to a virtuoso display by Martin Taylor.
Carol Kidd, of course, to many people still is “the Scottish Jazz singer” and last year Carol was awarded a “Lifetime Achievements” honour at The Scottish Jazz Awards. An interesting and diverse range of songs gave a small insight into the varied musical interest of Carol tonight.
Probably the most enjoyable part of this show though (apart from the music obviously) was just watching the sheer pleasure that these musicians were all having performing individually and together. Many of course are friends over many years, but importantly that joy of getting together and playing music that they love is so obviously still there, and that is really what music is all about, and as long as talent of this level still wants to come together to share their love of music, then Scottish Jazz music (and all other musical genres) is alive and well in Scotland.
Review by Tom King