Into that uneasy lull between Edinburgh’s jazz festival and Fringe mayhem comes Fred Wesley and his New JB Horns, transforming the Spiegeltent into a great, whumping temple of funk. Now in his early 70s, Wesley’s credentials are formidable – musical director for James Brown and leader of Brown’s famous JB Horns, member of the Count Basie Orchestra and sidekick of Maceo Parker.
Fred Wesley & the New JBs | Rating: **** | St Andrew Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh
He settled his ample physique on to a stool and led on trombone with laconic authority, trumpeter Gary Winters and tenor saxophonist Philip Whack completing an ultra-sharp horn section that allowed Whack and particularly Winters to cut loose over the mighty groove laid down by guitarist Reggie Ward, Peter Madsen on keyboard, drummer Bruce Cox and particularly Dwayne Dolphin’s juddering bass lines. Thirled to the beat they may be, but they gave the impression of thoroughly enjoying themselves, right down to their cheesy, a cappella Funk School Hymn.
From Wesley’s Parker days came Four Play, Madsen’s ringing keyboard breaking out of the riff, and a limber, growly-twangy bass solo from Dolphin in No-one But You Baby, while gleeful audience participation was triggered by Bop to the Boogie.
A rare let-up in the all-pervading groove was “our one and only love song”, which sashayed along nicely, giving guitarist Ward a chance to let his instrument sing.
Ultimately, though, when they perform a tune with the inarguable title of We’re Gonna Have a Funky Good Time, they mean it.