CD review

Various artists – “To The Jazz Bar With Love”

Various artists – To The Jazz Bar With Love
(The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh. Digital album review by Mark McKergow)

The Jazz Bar, hub of the music in Scotland’s capital is, like every other venue, closed because of the pandemic. Opened by the late Bill Kyle on 1 July 2005, this cellar venue has hosted the great, the good, the about-to-be-good and (on rare occasions) the somewhat ugly such as myself. Everyone goes there, and under normal circumstances the place has upwards of 24 gigs a week from afternoon swing to late-night funk – a buzzing beacon.

Around the time of lockdown singer Ali Affleck, in conversation with Edith Kyle who keeps the flame alive and the beer running, was trying to think about how to support the Jazz Bar. The club had released a 10-year anniversary CD in 2015, and the idea emerged of an update, a 15th anniversary digital album, based on tracks donated by regular performers. And here it is – 23 tracks, over two and a half hours of wonderful music from across the range of the bar’s programme.

There really is something for everyone to enjoy. The album gets off to a spritely start with trumpeter Colin Steele’s The Sidestep, appropriately influenced by Scottish traditional music. It features slipped beats and engaging solos from Julian Arguelles on soprano sax and a magical floating unaccompanied section from pianist Dave Milligan. Altoist Stewart Forbes contributes a beautiful My Foolish Heart with David Newton on piano. Young pianist Alan Benzie leads his trio in a gorgeous original There Will Be Other Sunsets (which seems like an appropriate title right now) with Alan Robb taking a well-paced bass solo.

Some of these tracks are very much of now – world/jazz fusion band Mezcla’s track Auckland Hill (written by bassist and leader David Bowden) was released shortly before lockdown, and features great electric guitar soloing from Ben MacDonald. By contrast, Dave Swanson’s rollicking take on You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To has been resurrected from the late 1980s with fine vocals from Jan Swanson and trumpet from Donald Corbett, a real Jazz Bar mainstay; his hard bop tune Friday Night At The Jazz Bar is featured by Boptimism with tenorist Keith Edwards, co-leader of the Jazz Bar Big Band. The Mellotones Trio, Saturday afternoon regulars for years, perform a short-but-sweet This Can’t Be Love with bassist Jimmy Taylor taking the vocal and Alan Anderson visiting Chattanooga during his piano solo.

There is music from across the style spectrum. ‘Vintage vocalist’ and collection co-ordinator Ali Affleck brings a typically feisty St Louis Blues with great support work from her band The Copper Cats, including Colin Steele and Bechet-tinged soprano sax from Dick Lee. Guitar blues is featured with John Hunt accompanying himself on juicy acoustic guitar for Sun Come Shining, while Main Street Blues offer some classy electric blues with Move On.  Gypsy/klezmer band Romacaleo pop up with clarinet-led selections from Carmen, accompanied startlingly (and beautifully) by opera singer Shuna Sendall.  In another part of the forest, DJ B-Burg lays down the late-night New Groove, while the album concludes with Tom Bancroft’s Trio Red doing Acoustica Electronica, pianist Tom Cawley bringing some of the lowest known piano notes into play.

There is so much on this collection that I haven’t had space to mention more than half the tracks. It’s all good, it’s a huge variety, and it’s all in aid of a fantastic and deserving cause.

LINKS : LondonJazz News interview with Ali Affleck about the creation of this CD collection

Track Listings and to buy the album

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