This indubitably groovy double bill opened like an encounter with an old friend who has barely changed over the years. The James Taylor Quartet were leading lights in the acid jazz movement of the late 80s and still sounded pretty trim around the middle, with just the occasional brief diversion for a mellow guitar solo or some heroic drumming.
Average White Band/James Taylor Quartet | Rating: **** | Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
This was music for dancing in a sweaty basement club rather than nodding along in an auditorium, so Taylor adopted the somewhat forced role of cheerleading MC, cajoling the crowd into singing the organ hooks on their Booker T covers. With the addition of a couple of horn players, the energy kicked up a gear from the sound of 60s spy movies to 70s cop shows – literally, in the case of their punchy take on the Starsky and Hutch theme.
The feelgood funk of Average White Band has a more timeless appeal, despite its specific roots in the rich soul funk boom of the early 70s, replicated here with such a light, infectious touch from debut single Put It Where You Want It right through to the carefree Let’s Go Round Again.
Brent Carter’s effortless falsetto vocals were complemented throughout by founder member Alan Gorrie’s deeper growl and there were alternative “vocals” from the expressive alto and tenor saxophonists, dubbed the Haymarket Horns for the night, who got their individual moments to shine but also led on AWB’s signature Pick Up The Pieces.