altMelba Joyce continues to fall in and out of love. She probably shouldn’t be telling us stuff like this, but hey-ho. She continually intersperses her songs with some commendably frank personal feelings. How very honest; how very American. Unfortunately something of a communication barrier exists between North East Scotland and the north side of Manhattan, and her tales fail to resonate with the audience. Surely a bit cold and taciturn? No, wait, this is just Edinburgh.

Musically Melba’s ‘good time jazz’ is the audio equivalent of a good mellow bourbon; audibly sliding around our senses, releasing warm, relaxing flavours. Shimmying around in a gorgeous gold dress against a deep blue curtain, Joyce has a genuineness and ease about her. Occasionally she is joined by trumpeter and assassin impersonator, Duke Heitger, who slips on stage in his tux, before screwing in a mute like a silencer on a pistol.   
This is good old-fashioned jazz, without the excessive wrestling with instruments and tearing up of musical notation that I am fast growing accustomed to at the Jazz Festival.

Nevertheless the Festival, once again, while getting the music right, constrain the fluid and emotive sounds of jazz to the straightjacket of a very rigid sit-down performance. Rows and rows of seats face forward, in the Nuremberg-esque cabaret. Don’t even think about chatting to the person next to you. This is serious you know!

As a result it would be unfair to say the music was without ‘edge’ because of its affinity to more traditional jazz. Instead, much of the problem is down to formatting, and an audience of buttoned up Morningside Calvinists attempting to relax. Surely the Festival could have provided some space for dancing? 

August 2, 8pm, The Jam House, £12.50

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