Laura Macdonald’s ‘Cooking with Jazz‘
(Piccolo Tent, George Square Gardens, 22 July 2022. Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. Live Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Day eight of a very full jazz festival, and I was beginning to flag. Needing something to pep me up; saxophonist Laura Macdonald doesn’t disappoint. Her straight-ahead take on jazz is always an uncomplicated delight, and she only plays rarely in Edinburgh, so I seek her out whenever she does. The perfect palate-cleanser, if you will…
…because since she made it through to the 2021 MasterChef finals, she had been leading a double life: under the nom de cuisine Laura Michael, she has been developing a second career as a chef. This was the first gig to bring her two jobs together – a quintet show around the theme of food.
She was joined in the kitchen – sorry, on stage – by her regular, ever excellent rhythm section of Mario Caribe on bass, Alyn Cosker on drums and Kevin McKenzie on guitar, with special guest Helena Kay on tenor.
Starting out with Sugar, all the tunes related to food, from Dexter Gordon’s Cheese Cake (from Go) through to Louis Armstrong’s All That Meat And No Potatoes. It is a rich seam – part of the fun was guessing which culinary numbers would make the cut.The band played with a relaxed swing, propelled by Caribe’s walking bass. Macdonald and Kay’s playing was well balanced, the tenor contrasting with Macdonald’s alto.
The first set culminated in a short cooking demonstration; as the band laid down an easy going groove behind her, Macdonald made honeycomb from golden syrup and baking powder, and shared round earlier-prepared samples of an orange cake decorated with honeycomb, which went down very well with the audience. This was the first gig I’d attended which had its own allergen notice!
Coming back after the interval, the stage cleared of all cooking paraphernalia, Macdonald admitted she had been nervous about how the demonstration might go. But she also relished the chance to bring together her two passions, both of which can require improvisation. The music to the fore, Macdonald’s easy-flowing style was a recipe for a good time.