Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

Jan Garbarek Group

Festival Theatre

Keith Bruce

Four stars

AS Kylie takes up residence at Edinburgh Castle and Rewind returns to Scone Palace, why should there not be a 1980s revival at the capital’s summer jazz festival as well?

Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, whose cool, magisterial playing is one of the signature sounds of the ECM label, has been a regular summer visitor over the years, and his current quartet, featuring Trilok Gurtu on his globally-sourced batterie of percussion, alongside Brazilian bassist Yuri Daniel and long-serving keyboard sideman Rainer Bruninghaus, continues to major on the material Garbarek recorded some decades ago.

If that guarantees that the large audience get what they paid to hear, it also means that the best bits tend to be the less obvious moments. Trilok going the full Gurtu, with mouth percussion, birdcalls, bucket of water and pitch-shifting small gong, is always fun, but probably most exciting when you hear and see it for the first time, and the statuesque Garbarek with small soprano instrument is symbolic, but his playing is much more propulsive when he picks up his tenor sax.

Daniel brings a welcome injection of funk to proceedings, but the real edge in this set came in the solo spot for Bruninghaus and a sturm und drang subversion of boogie-woogie piano, which brought the sort of chuckles that Gurtu’s playfulness provokes, and was some distance from the reverence that Garbarek’s back catalogue seems to inspire and expect.

As it happens, a smaller gig in the Piccolo tent in George Square a couple of hours earlier had recalled the years when the saxophonist was more experimental. Pianist Tom Gibbs has found a very fruitful partnership with a Norwegian saxophonist less than half Garbarek’s age, Harald Lassen, and drummer Corrie Dick. Lassen has wind synthesiser, simultaneous treble and descant recorders, and a fondness for singing and percussion in his armoury, which sits nicely with Dick’s inventive approach to a kit of drums. If that means Gibbs’s gospel-inflected pianism anchors the trio’s sound, he still managed to lean into the works of the baby grand to mute and pluck strings in a set that found room for the compositional talent of all three musicians.