ANYONE who heard Curtis Stigers – the American singer-saxophonist with the Mount Rushmore features and the craggy, soulful voice – when he played a series of duo gigs at Le Monde in 2012-2013 will have had his second Edinburgh Jazz Festival appearance of this year circled in their programme since it was announced. Why? Because not only was he coming back for his first duo gig here since then, it was also to team him with British guitar star Martin Taylor.
Teviot Row, Edinburgh *****
This may have been the pair’s first full concert together, but – as they explained – they met years ago, and the idea of a duo gig has been gestating ever since, with a shared love for the legendary Tony Bennett-Bill Evans recordings providing inspiration both in terms of repertoire (their 2018 version of Days of Wine and Roses was a particular joy) and as a prime example of the art of the jazz duo.
Right from the off, it was clear that the full-house audience at Teviot Row – great acoustics, great sightlines, fiendishly uncomfortable heat – was in for a treat. A terrific storyteller, Stigers clearly relishes this sort of intimate setting, and the opportunity it affords him to get to the core of a song and lay bare its heart – especially when he has such a suitably sensitive musical partner.
It’s no surprise, then, that it was the ballads – notably their exquisite takes on All The Things You Are, I Fall In Love Too Easily and There’s Always Tomorrow – which best showcased the results of this successful summit meeting.