On 13th November, in their first concert of the year, the Edinburgh University Jazz Orchestra occupied Chambers Street’s Jazz Bar to perform a salmagundi of swing, soul, and funk. The seventeen-piece big band transported audience members back to the 1930s and into the rooms of New Orleans’ smoothest clubs, the sound of clashing cymbals and doo-wop diddly doos accompanying us on the journey.
On entering the venue, eyes were immediately drawn to the glimmer of brass that lined the back of the hall. Layers of trumpeters, trombonists and saxophonists filled the stage in preparation for the instrumental orgy to come. Our musical locomotive was set into motion by the sharp sound of Count Basie’s ‘Kid from Red Bank’ and, at this point, one half expected Frank Sinatra to grace the stage. Such a moment of madness was interrupted by the syncopated rhythm blasted from the trumpet section, a rhythm that would later characterise the night, and we were returned to the clutches of this jazz-inspired extravaganza.
In contrast to the fast tempo songs that began our night, the second half of the evening commenced with a slow rendition of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’, a classic that ensured all members of the audience sang along. This was just one of the pieces that included vocals from one of the orchestra’s singers. Another one was Duke Ellington’s ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’ sung by the brilliant Ashton Brower, whose sultry yet strong tone was conveyed with pure ease, and whose voice brought to mind images of a young Ella Fitzgerald. Her performance was sure to make an impression on all as they savoured the evening’s happenings, be it on the walk home or over a square sausage in the morning.
The orchestra’s sheer talent was also testament in the rustling drum solos of Andy Watson, who didn’t even blink an eyelid while his hands blurred over the drum kit.
All members of the band seemed to more than enjoy their time on stage and this definitely rubbed off on the audience. One witnessed musicians standing up for their solos, closing their eyes while doing so, and body-popping in states of pure ecstasy. This translated in the finger tapping and shimmying of spectators, which was unfortunately all that we could muster in the small, packed venue. The space did not do much to hinder the overall experience though, with old and young alike still participating in invitations to grunt to the opening of Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing Sing Sing’.
The last stop on our musical spectacular was pronounced by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ ‘Moanin’. This marked the end of amagnificent night that could not only be appreciated by jazz enthusiasts but also those looking for an excuse to get dressed up and wear a flapper dress for the night. The University’s Jazz Orchestra is most definitely not to be missed, especially their ‘Jazz Club Time Machine’ event next semester that will be sure to sell out (despite being held in Potterrow).