Nice N’ Easy Does It
Iain Hunter and the Eliot Murray Big Band at the Speigeltent, George Square for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival 2017
I’ve seen Iain Hunter sing before, and I’m sure I will see him sing again. I’ve seen and heard him at the Tron Kirk, at the Queen’s Hall, and at the Perth Meat Trades Fair a few years ago! But I have to say that last night’s performance with the Eliot Murray Big Band for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival was genuinely Iain at his best – his very best.
His charm lies in his modesty. His skill lies in his presentation. His mastery lies in his phrasing, like Sinatra and the other greats. How do you learn to sing, and swing, like that?
So Iain came onto the stage last night and eased effortlessly into Moondance after a rousing, hand-clapping Hot Toddy from the band, a Scottish jazz star-studded band at that, absolutely on it right from the start, as any explosive combustion of musicians of such high calibre would be.
Iain then treated us to a popular songbook from the swing era, and introduced us to a few less familiar tunes too. Nothing But The Best, I’ve Got You Under My Skin dedicated to the force behind him (his words, not mine), his wife Pamela, and then an un-dedicated Witchcraft. The Good Life featured a breathy solo from sax maestro Gordon McNeil, picking up the tempo with Leroy Brown, and Fly Me To The Moon. This song Iain dedicated to Toby who was in the audience, who is fighting cancer at a young age, and raising funds through his charity Toby’s Magical Journey, with more than £750 from an impromptu bucket collection on the night.
In the first set Iain also introduced us to the Bobby Darin song Artificial Flowers – a sad tale and possibly the swing equivalent of Che Gelida Manina! “As snowflakes drifted into her tenement room her baby little fingers grew numb …” That was a first for me as it was for a lot of others I’m sure, but we’re all singing it now!
The second set we were treated to Don’t Rain on My Parade, Come Fly With Me and Nice N’ Easy. In his preamble to this Iain thanked those who had made the journey by bus from Kinross and how much he appreciated their support. Now that they’d seen the show, he quipped, they still had to keep coming into the shop. A butcher’s not just for Christmas, he reminded them.
And that is where Iain really scores. You can see he loves his audience and you can see that they love him back. There is none of that Leroy Brown stuff, waving your diamond rings in front of everybody’s nose. Oh no, that’s not his style.
Another totally new song was Matt Monro’s Gonna’ Build A Mountain, followed by Mr Bojangles, bringing a lump to the throat – and a tear to the eye.
For the Sinatra song Didn’t We, the accompaniment was stripped back for the one and only time to musical director Eliot Murray on the piano, with bass and drums joining for the second verse, and then we were hit right between the eyes with Cry Me A River, with it’s tango-esque, hard-hitting, stacatto arrangement. Iain wound up with New York, New York, and came back for Mack The Knife as an encore, a song absolutely right for a swinging, singing Scottish butcher!
This was one well-rounded show, and a great venue, proving again that an Edinburgh audience really can dance while sitting on its collective backside, but definitely not on its hands which they put together generously for Iain, and also in their pockets for young Toby’s Magical Journey.
Once or twice a year for performances like this is not enough. Iain and the band take these songs and deliver them with ease, panache, style – and fun.
Didn’t we almost make it … this time? Sang the man.
Well imho this time you certainly did.