JazzMain break the rules

Posted by Dick Playfair on Jul 21, 2019

I really enjoyed The Silver Project a few years back when JazzMain put a celebration of Horace Silver numbers together.

I haven’t seen JazzMain since although this must be one of the hardest working quartets on the circuit, popping up at this and that in Scotland (and Ireland), and leader, my jazzy chum Nick Gould, finding every available opportunity to deliver some tenor madness – at home, in France and beyond.

So, I knew what to expect, and wasn’t disappointed – not least because I actually knew some of the tunes. Their set for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival 2019, in what looked like an as good as sold-out Jazz Bar, promised an all too brief dip into the Blue Note catalogue. And that’s what it was – almost.

Iain Harkness and Nick Gould

JazzMain play and swing hard. Kevin Dorrian, uncompromising on drums, and Iain Harkness on electric bass hold the backline solid allowing Nick and Steve Grossart on piano to show their mettle. But you can tell too that these very smart gents (there might even have been a tie) have spent far more time in the studio fine tuning their repertoire than spent at the tailors having their inside leg measurements taken.

We were treated, in an hour that flew by all too swiftly, to renditions of Hank Mobley’s Funk In The Deep Freeze to open, then You Stepped Out Of A Dream as on the wonderful Dexter Gordon album, Go (which everyone should own, or at least listen to, if only once), followed by Wes Montgomery’s hard, swinging Full House.  And this is where JazzMain broke the rules, because this was on the Riverside label, not Blue Note, as was admitted from the stage.  But nobody cared.  Nick told how they had played this first with the great Glasgow-born guitarist Jim Mullen at the Voodoo Rooms last year and decided to keep it on the playlist, despite the lack of guitar.

Kevin Dorrian, drums, and Steve Grossart, piano

Then followed a change of tempo with Recado Bossa Nova (from Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan’s Dippin’ album) and a welcome,  laid-back and stunning rendition of Coltrane’s Central Park West (three key centres and a 10 bar form explained for the aficionados). 

Things then motored toward the finish line with Cheesecake (Dexter Gordon, Go again), Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, and some Silver to finish in the form of Liberated Brother.

You get the impression that JazzMain give it everything they’ve got. Technically it’s exceptional, there’s a ton of energy, and they bop hard, hard, hard.

Hardest swingers in town?

Bill Kyle received a credit, which was great. The Jazz Bar and its continuing success are his legacy and the jazz scene in Edinburgh owes him so much.  Equally there was a mention for the great sound set-up for which this venue is famous with the dexterous ear and touch of Alasdair Kampff on duty at the desk.

Too right that these smart Edinburgh jazz ambassadors have a place in the Festival programme.  I gather they have been doing what they do very well for a long time. And they know how to dress properly. Long may that continue.

JazzMain presents Diggin’ Dexter for one night only in the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.