Alison (Ali) Affleck and The Copper Cats at The Spiegeltent in George Square took us all back in time through the magic of music and an original 19th century Spiegeltent - leaving the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival 2017 behind and re-visiting the early Jazz years from 1917 to roughly the 1940s.
Ali Affleck has not only the vocal abilities to give period authenticity to the songs from this period, but also a deep love of them and the original performers and an instinctive feeling for many of the stories that these early songs weave. This is music from the time when everything was so new and modern, and political correctness had not reared its often restrictive head to allow many of these stories to be told in song and performed on stage.
The Copper Cats are Colin Steele (Trumpet), Dick Lee (Reeds), Ross Milligan (Guitar and Banjo), Danielle Price (Tuba), Davide Rinaldi (Drums), and along with Ali on vocals (and Washboard at times) had that perfect sound to keep us as an audience on our musical journey for an hour as we re-captured the magic of vocalists like Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey, Sophie Tucker and Ma Rainey.
Modern day political correctness may have made the contents of some of these early songs (even their titles) debatable and the often casual acceptance by women of domestic violence towards them sits uncomfortably at times with our 21st century values, but these are songs of their time and they reflect the widely accepted moral standards and convention of their day (many now no longer acceptable to us) and to try and erase the music, the lyrics and the stories that they tell for the sake of conformity to our modern acceptances would be wrong...they are a window on the lives that the original writers and performers saw around them.
Opening with the classic sounds of “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball” Ali Affleck and The Copper Cats firmly set the musical tone for the next hour or so as we effortlessly moved through time with the sounds of “The Downhearted Blues”, “When I Get Low I Get High”, “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”, “Black Eyed Blues”, “St James Infirmary” and many others songs from that all important formative 20-30 year period of American Jazz and Blues…plus a classic performance of one of the greatest love songs of all time “La Vie En Rose” (although for me Edith Piaf’s other great classic love song “Hymne à l'amour” always comes first).
Great vocals from Ali Affleck all through this set coupled with an infectious enthusiasm for not only the music, but the spirit of it that, despite the gloom of some of the stories, lifted everyone’s spirits for an hour or so . A big part of the feeling of authenticity and fun for the music must also go to The Copper Cats and in particular the outstanding sounds of Colin Steele on Trumpet.
Review by Tom King