“A masterclass in real grassroots jazz”
What I love about the Fringe is how often the most wonderful things can occur in the most bizarre places. In the upstairs room of a pub down a side street in the New Town I was treated to a real jazz feast by Ali Affleck and The Copper Cats Quintet.
The setup was nothing grand: six musicians squeezed onto a tiny stage and 50 or so seats for the sellout crowd. To open, the Copper Cats played a lively instrumental piece, giving us a glimpse into the talents of the individual band members, and then Ms Affleck took to the stage.
The setlist pleasingly contained precious few well-known numbers, so this was a masterclass in real grassroots jazz in every sense of the word. While it took a couple of songs for the group to really get going, something “clicked” in Affleck’s voice during the sultry A Good Man is Hard to Find, and the mood went up a notch. Her voice was deep and smooth and I wanted to just wrap myself up in it. It was a real privilege to witness a singer that channels Billie Holiday with so much charm and poise.
Later on, Affleck’s high notes sparkled in Electric Chair Blues, and this was the moment that I really felt like I had been transported to a basement jazz bar somewhere in old-school, downtown New Orleans. And that’s where I stayed for the rest of this gig.
The cheeky Diga Diga Doo showed off Affleck’s playful side, and He Likes it Slow was velvety, soulful and divinely decadent. Penultimate number Egyptian Ella – the band’s favourite – was a roaring romp of a tune that had all of us tapping our feet in time, and My Man was graceful, seductive and left us all wanting more.
While Affleck’s vocals were mesmerising, this was far from a solo show. Dick Lee on the clarinet was stunning in his riffs and runs, as was Colin Steele on the trumpet. Indeed, the band showed great togetherness and comradery (with a hint of friendly competition in trying to outdo each other in some of the improvised sections), so there was always something interesting happening visually as well as the stunning soundscape.
A real treat for all jazz lovers, catch them while (and where!) you can.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 11 August)