The last of the handful of gigs I went to recently was the Neil Cowley Trio, another in the cellar that is the Jazz Bar.
I saw the trio play eighteen months ago in London, supporting another band, and I’d been impressed, so when I saw they were playing in Edinburgh as part of the Triptych Festival – spread over the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen (I am never sure if they intend one to venture all over the place, racing from Aberdeen to Glasgow and back to Edinburgh, or just attend events in one’s home city) – I made sure to catch them.
A jazz power trio – their latest CD is called “Loud Louder Stop”, apparently after something an unfavourable reviewer wrote about their first album – Cowley’s music is somewhat riff-heavy, and occasionally formulaic; but it is also engaging and exciting, and they make a really good sound together.
Evan Jenkins on drums is steady, pushing the band forward – more rock than jazz (not many dotted triplets there!) – and freeing up bass player Richard Sadler to play more melody.
This was a really enjoyable gig; Cowley comes across as a really nice guy – he has a good line in London-patter – and the band held the audience enthralled.
Another gig in Edinburgh: this time Colin Steele and Brian Kellock with the house band at the Jazz Bar.
I had noticed trumpeter Steele concentrating hard on Enrico Rava’s playing earlier in the week. In the subterranean dive of the Jazz Bar, he took the limelight – it was his evening.
They played standards, rather than Steele’s own music, but his playing was scintillating. Reaching for the high notes – and hitting them – his trumpet sounded ringing and striking.
Keith Edwards on tenor produced a rich tone which balanced Steele’s more strident sound – Edwards played some great solos, and the two of them bounced lines around in true chasing style.
Kellock played less of a role than I had expected, and Bill Kyle, who plays drums as well running the Jazz Bar, could have been more forceful and driving – it felt like he was hanging back behind Edwards and Steele.
My one gripe was the audience: they got louder and louder and louder, until I could hear more of the audience than I could of the music – and I was sitting at the front! Why go to a jazz gig to talk? It the depths of the cellar, the chatter was distracting. It was good for the bar – a lot of people means they must have sold a lot of beer! – but a shame for the music.
Stefano Bollani and Enrico Rava played at the Queens Hall recently. I had seen them play before – a set supporting Tord Gustavsen in last year’s London Jazz Festival – and they hadn’t really set the place alight.
In Edinburgh, they were excellent.
It might be the venue – the Queens Hall is a small concert hall; it used to be a church. It is much more intimate than the Barbican Centre in London.
It might be the musicians – they were in charge, they weren’t the support act, and everybody was there to see them.
It might be that they had the time to do what they wanted – to build the set properly, to pace their performance, to fully warm up.
Either way, it was a cracking gig. Rava’s trumpet was crisp and fluent, with lots of Miles’ like runs and trills, and Bollani’s piano playing was by turns inventive, exciting and thoughtful.
They made some beautiful music – they play together a lot, in duets like this and in Rava’s band, so they a natural understanding.
It was a really enjoyable evening – they were wonderful.