Birmingham-based saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch proved to be one of the coolest attractions in one of the hottest rooms at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. His magnetic 90-minute set drew almost exclusively from current album Nonagram, which is themed around numbers, geometry and “stuff that was really boring at school”. In drawing inspiration from the other universal language, he hoped to do his small bit in transcending barriers and divisions.
Soweto Kinch, Teviot Row, Edinburgh ****
He certainly explored the possible playing configurations with double bassist Nick Jurd and drummer Will Glaser, at one point indulging in a lengthy free dialogue between alto sax and drums before taking a breather during a looser drum and bass passage, as well as synching his playing to a digital keyboard on Centricity and utilising his laptop for a bit of multi-tracked jazz funk noodling on Waved.
Kinch and co moved credibly between styles, tempo and tones, from urgency to reverie, from taut to elastic to completely unfettered, from expansive soulful blast to rap, putting his saxophone aside on occasion to preside over some call-and-response with the audience on the fake news-inspired Forecast (“what’s it all for?”) and a simple but smart exercise in getting the two sides of the auditorium in conversation to drive home his unity message.
He ended with the pure entertainment of a freestyle rap built around words from by the letters of Teviot which, like his saxophone playing, was alert, witty and eminently likeable.