A Night in New Orleans, George Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

Alison Kerr


THE Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in its current form can be accused of a lot of things but it certainly can’t be accused of sidelining female musicians. This year, for the second in a row, much has been made of an all-girl group from New Orleans, the Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, which played the final set of this year’s festival in Tuesday evening’s concert celebrating music from the Crescent City.

But here’s the thing: just because it’s jazz being played by musicians who live in New Orleans, doesn’t mean that it’s all that great. The Shake ‘Em Ups are blessed with a fantastic clarinettist and trumpeter in their front line, but their guitar-bass-washboard rhythm section just plods along keeping the beat; there’s no colour or flair in the arrangements, and little to make the numbers seem anything less than throwaway (with the exception of their vocal trio songs which were infinitely superior to their individual singing efforts). On a pub gig, this would all be fine, but on a main stage in a prime slot, it just seemed like a definite lowering of the standards. (For seven New Orleans musicians, could we not have had one New York jazz star flown in?)

It took a homegrown outfit – albeit one augmented by the guitarist and bassist from the Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band – to bring a bit of pizazz to the New Orleans-themed night. Alison Affleck’s Gin Mill Genies took the concert to a different level, thanks to her commanding and versatile voice, the interesting song choices, and the stellar support of her swinging fellow genies Colin Steele (trumpet), Campbell Normand (piano) and Max Popp (drums).