Basking in the wonderfully wayward eclecticism of Ron Davis’ Symphronica amid the picture hung premises of the Scottish Arts Club, you’re never quite sure whether you might get an eruption of all-out jazz fusion or a tea dance.
Ron Davis’ Symphronica, Scottish Arts Club (Venue 310) ****
Making their third visit to the Fringe, this amiably eccentric yet musically venturesome fusion band combines string quartet with jazz piano, double, bass electric guitar and drums. The Toronto-based octet have enlisted two familiar Scots jazz names, drummer Tom Bancroft and swing-fiddler and singer Seonaid Aitken, the latter here playing viola with the quartet.
Led by the cheerfully ebullient Canadian pianist and composer Davis, with guitarist Kevin Barrett and double-bassist Emma Smith, they launched into a rollicking samba, followed by what they described as a “derangement “of Miles Davis’ classic So What, demonstrating that this is some funky salon orchestra, with spiky guitar lines, piano jabs, cymbal flicker and resonant bass gelling with the string sound.
• READ MORE: Edinburgh Fringe 2018: 10 comedy shows you must see
There was a springy encounter between Bach and 1930s gypsy jazz and a sumptuously floating ballad inspired by the 19th-century Canadian poet Émile Nelligan, with its gentle drift of strings over piano and hi-hat. They really got going, however, with a muscular deconstruction of Be Happy, deftly ranging keyboard work and agile bass urging on the whole ensemble, and a wonderful excursion that hijacked an unsuspecting North African Sephardic tune and put it through Stravinsky-esque hoops, the whole ensemble working up a pulsing, slamming drive worthy of Rite of Spring.
Just occasionally there might have been a little more improvisational fluidity to some of the string players’ breaks; otherwise, there’s a terrific buzz about this outfit, not to mention that enjoyably intimate, salon vibe.
• Until 18 August, 9pm