Edinburgh Jazz Festival

David L Harris

Rose Theatre

Rob Adams

four stars

THERE is a twinkle in trombonist David L Harris’s eye as he introduces a song written by a friend of his who experienced great difficulty in being accepted by the world. Given the voyage of self-discovery and realisation that Harris has taken the audience on in the Rose Theatre’s fine, intimate basement theatre, this could herald some fractious soul-bearing.

The song turns out to be It’s Not Easy Being Green, the friend Kermit the Frog, and Harris’s point is made, as with everything else he shares, with eloquence and not a little charm. Harris’s own journey finds him emerging with a superb quartet, a lovely, cool and relaxed singing style and the ability to both play deep in the jazz tradition and move it on in his own way. In a shifting dynamic, the motoring swing of his autobiographical DJ’s Induction gives way to a folk-spiritual melody and super-intense creativity from pianist Shea Pierre before alighting on a tender, muted and suitably bluesy Mood Indigo. Definitely a journey worth taking.

In the same venue later, keyboard master Paul Harrison’s Sugarwork offers a very different but no less enthralling odyssey, with compound metres, shimmering, atmospheric tone poems, intricate melodies, electronic elements and just frankly great playing from saxophonist Phil Bancroft, guitarist Graeme Stephen, drummer Stuart Brown and Harrison himself.

Great playing too from bassist David Bowden and fiddler Charlie Stewart’s jazz-folk septet at the Traverse in a debut gig that matched the Scottish tradition with a warm, melodic form of Pat Metheny-esque world jazz, superbly shaped and propelled by Stephen Henderson’s sensitive, very aware drumming and given its own identity by the musicians’ quietly assertive personalities.