Opening the two-set gig, Alyn Cosker set the tone. His relentlessly deep and loud funk groove was shortly joined by Konrad Wiszniewski in typical flamboyant mode on sax, the latter then trading super-slickly with bursting-with-energy-and-enthusiasm leader Alan Benzie, to an eventual very big finish. This first tune of the night promised it was going to be a very special Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival gig and so it was.
Indeed, the whole band was strong. Bassist Gus Stirrat’s speed and dexterity was impressive, particularly once the band’s dander was well and truly elevated towards the end of the night. As for guitarist Ben MacDonald, his wizardly fleet-fingered precision was only matched by Benzie whose right hand, fleeing across the keyboard, was a virtual blur. In addition to these pyrotechnics, Benzie’s patter and very Scottish brand of charisma were a delight.
Granted the band had wonderful material as their starting point, mostly Herbie Hancock and co’s seminal pieces from key album Head Hunter, nevertheless this was as joyous and astonishingly energetic an interpretation as you could wish for: Chameleon and Watermelon Man like you’ve never heard before. With Hancock due to play in the Edinburgh International Festival this August, this was a superb appetite-whetter for that event.
Benzie’s band offers a big, high spirited yet polished sound with a depth of groove that, if life is fair, should take Benzie and his colleagues to audiences across the UK and internationally.