Be contemporary, not temporary. Be like John.

Posted by Dick Playfair on Oct 19, 2019

The Anoushka Nanguy Quartet and the Georgia Cécile Quartet at the St Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh, opening Gallus, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival Jazz Weekend.

In my last blog I was spoiled for jazz, and this time I was spoiled for more. The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival has a new little brother (or should it be sister?) in Gallus, the Scottish Jazz Weekend, which kicked off at the St Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh last night, the opening acts being newcomer Anoushka Nanguy followed by a now familiar face and voice on the Scottish jazz scene and further afield, Georgia Cécile, each accompanied by a trio. And what a great night it was.

The chap next to me who was also on his own introduced himself. He was called John and had driven across from Fife in miserable weather. He told me he had only been to two jazz gigs before, the SNJO and the Copper Cats, and had enjoyed both. He wouldn’t call himself a jazz fan, but tonight’s gig had caught his attention, flagged up in an e mail. We were both in the front row; he liked the extra leg-room because of his arthritis. He liked to be able to stretch his bad knee. Neither of us would be dancing then! After last night’s performances John told me he is well and truly converted.

Anoushka Nanguy sings and plays the trombone. She and her supporting trio are all studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. This was her ‘world premiere’ and from the moment she launched into a highly novel treatment of Bye Bye Blackbird that was it, she was captivating. Her set was a mix of standards tempered with great originality: God Bless The Child with her super, lush trombone; Nature Boy bravely demonstrating her vocal range; and Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley’s Save Your Love For Me. She added a tender version of Coltrane’s Naima with her solo horn taking the lead, rounding off with the up-tempo Doo Wop, a nice mix of jazz, funk, rap, and all stations on the way.

Anoushka Nanguy sings like she means it.

She sings like she means it, from the soul. I loved the little scat breaks and ‘asides’ between the lyrics. I loved her trombone – a demonstration of how ‘simple’ can be so effective, coupled with beautiful tone, emphatic phrasing, and the occasional run and flourish as if to say: “hey I can play all that fast, fancy stuff too!” I loved that she played a no-frills vintage King tenor, no trigger, no gizmos. And all credit to her trio, the controlled dexterity and athleticism of James Mackay on guitar, Ewan Hastie’s solid but sensitive bass lines, and Peru Eizagirre behind the kit cranking it up where it mattered. Perfect. I would happily have listened to another hour and more, but then I love jazz trombone almost as much as I love, well – jazz trombone.

If she’s this good now who knows how far she and her quartet can go.

What more can be said about Georgia Cécile? This set was so polished, and yet that polish doesn’t hide the emotion which is there for all to see, etched into her delivery like she’s living every word and phrase. She rightly deserves to be up there in the top rank of the new generation of Scottish jazz – and not just Scottish. This was an hour of stunning performance – a mix of standards and new compositions written with the genius at the piano, Euan Stevenson. So, we had the pleasure of I’m Old Fashioned, Be Anything But Be Mine, Mean To Me, Always Be Right For Me, and, homage to Nina Simone, Still In Love With You. There was some Frank Sinatra, You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me, and some super original material, Month of May, Harpoon (?) and Come Summertime. The band is one tight unit which you would expect given that they are all Premier League – Euan on piano, Max Popp on drums, and Mario Caribé on bass. Individually brilliant, together a powerhouse, but one with subtlety and refinement in its vocabulary. And they know how to dress too.

Polished doesn’t hide the emotion.

I hadn’t heard a full set from Georgia Cécile before, just the occasional number at a jam session, so this was a real treat. You can tell, like all those greats whose recordings she interprets, that she feels and lives the songs. She adds variety with an occasional burst of scat – not overused so it’s a bonus. She has definitely got ‘it’, whatever it might be. She introduces her band saying: “we have such a good time together … so it’s cool.” And it is. I like the fact she credits the songwriters in her introductions. As an accomplished songwriter herself she knows that’s important – and nowhere was that song-writing prowess more evident than with the last number Blue Is Just A Colour. This made a demonstrative closing statement as we were treated to some tight as tight funky stuff to finish.

Euan Stevenson and Georgia Cécile – already a formidable songwriting partnership.

Credit too to EJBF and their sponsors. The St Bride’s Centre, a converted church, has great acoustics, and with its tiered seating, plain black drapes, and a simple but effective lighting rig – nothing fancy or flashing – a great performance space. I would think it’s a super venue to play.

What more to say? If you get the chance to see the Anoushka Nanguy Quartet, then do. If they are this good now who knows where they will go? And as for Georgia Cécile likewise, only she’s already well on that journey. There’s a cd coming soon. You can stream two of her songs as a taster, but for heaven’s sake do these hard-working musicians a favour, respect their craft, and buy the album when it’s launched next year.

The contemporary jazz scene here is brimming with talent. By supporting it we can keep it that way. Be contemporary, not temporary. Be like John.