Grooveyard with Jacqui Hicks

If you’re anywhere near Haddington tonight, get yourself down to the Railway Hotel and enjoy one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. Part of a commendable venture that sees the Festival put on one-off gigs in Peebles, Stirling, Dunfermline and Linlithgow as well as Haddington, Grooveyard’s collaboration with ex-Shakatak singer Jacqui Hicks should raise the roof off the Railway if last night’s outing at Bristo Place is anything to go by.

A powerful mix of jazz, soul and funk, the Grooveyard quartet – Malcolm MacFarlane (guitar), Gordon McNeil (tenor sax), Malcolm Edmondstone (organ) and Paul Mills (drums) opened proceedings in this sweatpit of a venue (MacFarlane commented as he mopped his face with a towel for the twentieth time “If I was a bit taller you might take me for Andy Murray”) with a version of Hoochie Coo Chickie that only served to take the temperature even higher.

Driven on by the powerhouse drumming of Mills, they strode through some fine arrangements of classic tunes – Stanley Turrentine’s Gibralter and Mississippi City Strut and an anything but mellow rendition of Jimmy Smith’s Mellow Mood.

Joined by Jacqui Hicks, who first worked with MacFarlane 29 years ago, they reworked material from such diverse sources as Duke Ellington (Caravan) John Phillips – a slowed down, souled-out Monday Monday and Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Such is the thought that went into the arrangements, they made the songs their own.

If there is any criticism to be made, it is that on occasion the band threatened to overwhelm Hicks, but generally speaking, they pulled back from that precipice in time.

This is a band that should be playing bigger venues to much bigger audiences up and down the country. The potential for crossover into mainstream is there, they skilfully walk the tightrope of being crowd pleasers while retaining their musical integrity. So catch them at the Railway tonight – it might be the last chance you have of seeing them in such an intimate space.

Jim Welsh