Edinburgh Fringe 2016
An hour of silky singing from Shelagh Westwater, an emerging talent on the Scottish jazz scene.
St Andrew’s and St George’s West probably doesn’t have a lot of jazz Sunday afternoons throughout the year but here we had Shelagh Westwater, an emerging voice on the Scottish jazz scene, treating to us to an hour of soulful, sassy, sexy numbers from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holliday, Jo Stafford and a few more of the great and the good. And, with backing from the impressive Frazer Urquhart on piano, Jerry Forde on bass and the incomparable, irrepressible Colin Steele on trumpet, this gig was never going to be anything other than entertaining.
So it proved as Westwater reeled off a nicely chosen set of songs, including “These Boots (Are Made For Walking)”, “Sunday Kind of Love”, “Dancing Cheek to Cheek” (one of my favourites and very hard not to sing along to!), “I Cover The Waterfront” and a very interesting arrangement of a number by the late David Bowie.
Westwater has a lovely smooth, silky, sultry and at times, smouldering voice that she deployed to full effect throughout the set. There is a lot of power in the middle of her range but also a subtlety to her delivery. With this being only her third solo concert, she sensibly stuck to stuff in her sweet spot, plumb in the middle of a classic alto’s register. And on the rare occasion that she got into a bit of difficulty, the warm, mellifluous trumpet of Colin Steele seemed to emerge like a knight in shining armour to pick up the baton and set her back on the right course.
Jazz is a wonderfully free flowing musical genre with very few rules. This can, of course, trip performers up especially where they’ve had little or no time to rehearse. So it’s a tribute to Miss Westwater’s skills as a singer that she managed to stitch this concert together with the benefit of one short rehearsal and a quick tune up before they went live. Not that the average audience member would have noticed. To them it would have appeared as a well-rehearsed, yet very relaxed afternoon concert, with Westwater a modest host, almost seeming to shun the limelight.
One or two things did go “bump in the night” so to speak but it’s not the fact that things go wrong that matters, it’s the way you deal with them. Not many singers would have the courage to recognise that they’d set off in the wrong key, stop the band, shift them up a semi-tone and start again. So hats off to Miss Westwater for so doing. A bit more pizazz in front of the audience (that will come with experience), a bit more legato in some of the numbers (that will come with confidence) and a bit more variety in terms of tempo and this will be an act well worth following.