Stefan Grossman

Of all the memories I will take away from this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, two of the most abiding will be of 3 Bristo Place. Firstly for the fact that it was swelteringly hot beyond the point of being merely uncomfortable, with apparently no air conditioning, no windows, and a heating system in overdrive. When performers repeatedly mention the heat, and audience members take a walk outside during gigs just so they can draw breath, it does tend to detract from the experience.

But the other memory is of one of the outstanding performances of the year – not just of the Festival – by Stefan Grossman. A completely sold-out house witnessed an hour and a half of guitar magic from “the proud father of a graduate of the Dick Vet College over the road” (although what career his son might have chosen if Stefan had got his way and named him Blind Lemon Grossman is another matter).

A student of the Rev Gary Davis, Grossman is reknowned as much as a guitar tutor as a musican and recording artiste, but he is living proof that the old adage “those who can do, and those who can’t, teach” is far from the truth.
Relaxed and cheerful, he interspersed his dazzling guitar work with put downs of anyone who came to mind – Segovia: can’t play the blues; well, he’s Spanish; guitarists in the audience: they’re the glum looking guys who stare at me but couldn’t tell you what I look like, they only see my fingers – and was moved to ask at one point “is there anyone in here under 40?”

Adding occasional vocals, highlights of the set included My Creole Belle, Cocaine, and Skip James’ Special Rider Blues. But to be honest, everything was a highlight. And even though he had already run over time, he gave in to the audience and returned to lead a sing-along of That’s The Glory Of Love.
It just doesn’t get better than this.

Jim Welsh