Festivals are a big thing in Edinburgh. A really big thing. For the last week the Edinburgh Jazz Festival has taken over the city showering us with good music, interesting band names, and tourists.
I’m not a huge fan of the last one.
According to the official website:
Edinburgh Jazz Festival was set up in 1978 by banjo-player and guitarist, Mike Hart. Mike’s initial focus was on traditional jazz and a host of events taking place for free admission in pubs. By the mid-80’s the Festival had added ticketed events, and had broadened its musical policy to encompass swing and mainstream jazz and occasionally some more modern groups.
The festival supports Scottish artists, but also supports musicians from around the world, giving them the chance to showcase their talents and share their music with the masses.
Lately I have been trying to do things that will make me feel better, so I decided that it would be worth seeing what the festival had to offer this year. My selection process was simple: the day and time had to fit in with my schedule and the name of the group had to be fun. I selected two groups based on those criteria: Bratislava Hot Serenaders and Alligator Gumbo.
First up: Bratislava Hot Serenaders
I’m ashamed to admit that while I knew Bratislava was a place, I had no idea where it was. Turns out it is the capital of Slovakia and has one kick ass orchestra. They started in 1991 and have 19 members, including 2 male singers and three women known as the Serenader Sisters. They rearrange and reconstruct old jazz tunes and focus on American Jazz and music from the 20s and the 40s. They also fuse Slovak dance music with jazz. They are dress in 1920s fashion and have a really awesome vintage vibe.
I saw them on a Wednesday afternoon, and was the youngest person in the audience by about 30 years. This show was a good test for me in a couple of ways. The show was in a small tent in St. Andrew’s Square. It was hot, we were packed in like sardines, and I was forced to keep my claustrophobia in check. I was surprised that I was able to make it through the show with only a mild panic. The other test was to go and do something on my own. It has been a long time since I just went on an adventure by myself. When I walked into the tent one of the volunteers asked me if I was alone, and when I said yes, gave me a pity pat on the shoulder and told me there were plenty of seats for singles at the front.
Besides that, the show was great. The music was good, and even though British people don’t really move to the music, I enjoyed myself.
Second up: Alligator Gumbo
According to their website:
Alligator Gumbo have been playing together since the summer of 2011. Based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, they have played extensively around the north of England to rave reviews. Playing jazz from the hey-day of the New Orleans swing era, in particular the “roaring 20s”, where Jazz music featured instruments such as the violin, clarinet and accordion particularly amongst the Creole musicians based in the city who helped to define this style. Before the time of the jazz big bands, swing music was raw and largely improvised with melodies and solos happening simultaneously which has now become defined as the ‘New Orleans’ sound. Alligator Gumbo strive to keep this style alive in their renditions of popular songs from this unique time and place.
This was another show I went to on my own. This was a Saturday afternoon show, and once again, I was the youngest person in the audience. They had us packed in tightly again, but I managed to sit on an end, so it wasn’t so bad. This group. Let me tell you about this group. They were so nerdy and endearing. They were also super talented musicians.
I would see them again in a heartbeat. It was again odd to me that no one was dancing to the music, but that didn’t stop me from my offbeat clapping and bobbing in my seat.
Bonus: Rob Heron and the Tea Party Orchestra
This is a group from Newcastle upon Tyne, which also happens to be the birthplace of a certain English muffin that I currently call my manpanion. He had seen them play at a pub in Newcastle, and when he saw they were here, thought it would be fun to see them again. We’ve been having some differences of opinions on what a relationship should be like, so when he wanted to go and make a night of it, I jumped at the chance. We had a couple of drinks, walked to the show and had a great time. Again, not many people got up to dance and move, but we did in our seats, laughed and had a good time. We had a couple of drinks after the show and then some very greasy chips with cheese and garlic mayo while watching a Brian Cox documentary. I made my way home at 2 am because sleepovers can only happen if I remember to bring all my medication with me.
If only our relationship was that much fun all the time.
Overall, 3/3 on successful jazz festival shows. It was a good way to spend the week. Now the art festival is picking up and before I can blink it will be time for the Fringe.
Oh how I love festival season.