It was a loud, full-on debut for Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival’s poster girl, tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia, in a packed Spiegeltent on Thursday night. Of Guyanese-Trinidadian descent, the Londoner is a fast-rising star in the UK jazz firmament, and there is something quite old-school about her rich, big toned and full range playing, which she combines with heavy dub, reggae and cumbia grooves, here delivered by double bassist Daniel Casimir, drummer Sam Jones and Deschanel Gordon on keyboards.
For sheer horn power, Garcia takes some beating, as demonstrated by two opening numbers from her acclaimed debut album, Source, and she blows elegant melody hooks as well as insistently repeating single-note refrains. Between horn blasts, she’s a disarmingly, indeed compulsively, chatty presence, given to thanking us for our energy or cutting insouciant dance shapes about the stage.
Stand With Each Other was a catchy clarion call for solidarity, delivered over Jones’s solemn dub beat and percussion reverb, before bass and keyboard joined to step up tempo, with some full on polyphonic sax yelling and pithy bass and keyboard exchanges. An as yet untitled new number came about as near to a ballad as she played, its melody gliding over the rhythm section and Gordon launching into one of several glittering keyboard excursions.
As an encore, another Source track, Pace, opened with a prolonged and inventive solo from Casimir before Garcia’s elegantly drawn out phrases became increasingly muscular.
It was an exuberant debut although, to be honest, I found the volume levels, particularly on drums, excessive, falling short of obscuring Garcia’s fine playing but giving little room for nuance – although an ecstatic all-standing, all-cheering and encouragingly young audience would doubtless disagree.