Gig review: John Colianni Quartet, Edinburgh

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YOU keep your ears wide open as John Colianni ranges irresistibly about the keyboard.

John Colianni Quartet

The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh

* * * *

The powerful New York pianist, here in the first-class company of guitarist Kevin MacKenzie, double-bassist Jay Kilbride and drummer Alyn Cosker, snatches terse handfuls of notes or releases full-blown cascades, while a familiar melody such as I’ll Remember April might explode momentarily into fireworks, only to continue as if nothing really happened.

The staccato signalling of C Jam Blues took the band into the swing of things right away, “swing” being the operative word. MacKenzie opened several numbers with great fluidity, such as the Weill-Nash song Speak Low, given the kind of drive that informed much of the show. Sometimes there might be a brief, irreverent eruption of an entirely different tune from Colianni, as in the sudden fanfare of Dixie during the slinky classic Body and Soul, while I Got Rhythm emerged from something else entirely, indisputably living up to its title.

A couple of numbers saw guest vocalist Freddie King letting rip with his trademark scatting, wobbling between yodel and basement rumble, while instrumentally there were creative – and in Cosker’s case exuberant – solos, including busy bass work from Kilbride and some gleeful piano-drums-guitar sparring during an unsuspecting Richard Rodgers number.

Closing with the expansive whirl of Alice in Wonderland, this was a freshly assembled band evidently excelling in each other’s company. The quartet plays the Frigate Unicorn in Dundee tonight and two gigs at Wighams, Edinburgh, on Sunday.