PREVIEW: Fringe By The Sea's jazz programme in North Berwick (4-9 August)

The Fergus McCreadie Trio are at Fringe By The Sea
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Rob Adams looks at a seaside reply to the Edinburgh Fringe which harbours jazz ambitions.

The small harbour town of North Berwick in East Lothian hosts an impressive series of jazz gigs, including a solo concert by saxophonist Tommy Smith, an Ella Fitzgerald tribute by singer Mica Paris and a lunchtime concert featuring Canadian pianist Ron Davis’ jazz with strings unit SymphRONica, in tandem with Edinburgh’s mammoth Fringe arts festival this month.

Fringe By The Sea is a general arts event offering a less bustling alternative to the Scottish capital’s crammed pavements and traffic congestion in August. But alongside family events, comedy, literature, bluegrass, folk and pop music, its programme this year features some of Scotland’s – and the UK’s - leading jazz talents.

As well as Tommy Smith, who plays solo and acoustically to make the most of the Abbey Church’s acoustics on Saturday 4 August, award-winning guitarist Graeme Stephen reprises his acclaimed soundtrack to the classic film Nosferatu on Tuesday 7 August, Mica Paris pays homage to Ella on Sunday 5 August and the exciting young pianist Fergus McCreadie, fresh from sold-out appearances and standing ovations at Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, leads his trio of graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s jazz course at the Abbey Church on Thursday 9 August.

There are also concerts by singers Alison Affleck and Melanie O’Reilly, Dixielanders Quattro MacJazz, the Django-styled Viper Swing, Trad jazz revival show Ball, Barker & Bilk, and klezmer-jazz quintet Moishe’s Bagel.

Ron Davis
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Canadian Davis, whose SymphRONica returns to Scotland for a 12-date run at the “big Fringe” in Edinburgh and plays the Tron Theatre in Glasgow on Sunday 19 August, is excited at the prospect of playing beyond Scotland’s two largest cities, although he has become an Edinburgh Fringe enthusiast over the past two years. His North Berwick date is  Tuesday 7 August.

“I love the idea of going down to the seaside for a change of air between Fringe gigs,” says Davis, who has the distinction of having studied piano with a teacher who was taught by both Oscar Peterson and George Gershwin’s brother-in-law, David Saperton. “At the same time, the Edinburgh Fringe somehow keeps coming up with new experiences. This year we’re back with the full band at the Scottish Arts Club and trying out the Leith Depot and Stockbridge Church for the first time. But the core of the group – guitarist Kevin Barrett, violinist Aline Homzy and myself – is also doing a lunchtime gig in The Pianodrome, this brand new venue which is made from more than 60 disused pianos and is being described as the world’s first playable amphitheatre.”

Joining SymphRONica, which combines a jazz quartet with a string quartet, are the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra drummer, Alyn Cosker, who has been on the kit on the band’s previous visits, and Seonaid Aitken, the singer and BBC Radio Scotland jazz presenter who plays violin with the Hot Club-styled Rose Room, winners of the Best Band title at this year’s Scottish Jazz Awards.

“We’ve always been lucky when we’ve travelled outside Canada to get players with the vision to make the music happen but Alyn Cosker went beyond that,” says Davis, who has a new SymphRONica’s album, UpfRONt, due in October. “We didn’t have to tell Alyn what we wanted because he just immediately made the music his own. We’re looking forward to working with Seonaid, too, because as well as playing mostly viola in the string quartet, she’ll also sing, which gives us another dimension.”

Ron Davis’ SymphRONica plays the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh on Thursday 2 August; Stockbridge Church, Edinburgh (3- 4 and 17 August); Marwick Spiegeltent, North Berwick (7 August); Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh 8, 10, 16, 18 August); Leith Depot, Edinburgh (13, 14, 15 August); Pianodrome, Edinburgh (15 August - lunchtime); and the Tron Theatre, Glasgow (19 August).

LINK: Fringe By The Sea

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