Edinburgh Fringe 2018
A scintillating, pulsating ninety minutes of superlative playing from one of Scotland’s finest jazz ensembles.
Colin Steele is a trumpet player par excellence. A widely acknowledged master of his craft, he can get sounds out of a trumpet that others can only dream of emulating. And with a quintet featuring Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2017 Konrad Wiszniewski (saxophone), Dave Milligan (piano), Kenny Ellis (bass) and Tom Gordon (drums), this was a jazz line up capable of raising the roof at any venue.
And that’s just what these guys did down at the Jazz Bar with ninety minutes of the most utterly sublime jazz I’ve heard in a long time, featuring compositions from the seminal albums produced in the 1950’s and 1960’s by the legendary Miles Davis – an evening that started with Milestones and ended with the appropriately titled Walk In, after which we all had to reluctantly walk out.
The set relied heavily on the album Kind of Blue, but why not, given that it’s probably one of the best collection of tracks Davis produced, maybe even one of the greatest jazz albums to hit the streets. And numbers such as So What, Freddie Freeloader, Blue In Green, All Blues and Flamenco Sketches had the packed Jazz Bar purring in appreciation at the quality of sound produced by these five very talented musicians.
Flamenco Sketches is an interesting piece as there’s no actual melody line which means it will never be played twice the same way. And this was different to other versions I’ve heard recently here with Steele’s gentle, muted trumpet producing a mellow, almost soporific sound, Wiszniewski reining himself in nicely and the bass of Ellis supporting with plodding footsteps of notes.
Milestones and Walk In both gave Steele and Wiszniewski licence to thrill with wonderful improvisations, the latter squeezing some of the most improbable riffs on a sax you are likely to hear for a long time. A good jazz number can be like a short improv sketch or play in some ways, especially given that many of Davis’ compositions run for up to ten minutes. The opening plot is laid down by the instruments playing, then each character gets a chance to develop before the piece is telepathically pulled together by the band leader (in this case Steele) in a harmonious denouement.
This was a group that were clearly enjoying themselves on stage and, as a result, produced music of the highest quality. Not a note was wasted, nor was anything ever out of place. Transitions were seamless and there was a refreshing absence of patter between the numbers as they sought to let the music do the talking for them, which it did admirably. They quite deserved their standing ovation as we reluctantly trooped out into the night. Highly recommended for jazz fans, or any lover of good music.