They knew what they were doing when they built New Town. With architectural gems on every corner, not for nothing is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You might need to be pretty monied to live there, of course, but us commoners are allowed to enjoy its splendour sometimes, especially during the Fringe when more buildings than usual throw open their doors to the masses.
One such New Town gem is the A-listed Merchants’ Hall on Hanover Street. Often in use for weddings and conferences, it is, for the first time this year, being used as an exclusively live music venue for the Fringe. And in contrast to your typical Fringe experience, you won’t be perched on a rickety stool in a dubious-smelling cellar with no sign of a fire escape (though that experience does have much to commend it), you’ll be encouraged to relax in comfort, even getting table-service for your food and drink (which as we found reviewing at the Caley Bar last year is a particularly nice way to enjoy your music).
The line-up for Merchants’ Hall includes jazz, funk, soul, folk and hip-hop from some of the finest purveyors of the genres in Scotland, with a few faces from further afield.
The first couple of evenings are filled with acid jazz with a residency from Geordie boys Smoove & Turrell, who have support slots with Nile Rodgers’ Chic and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas on their CV. Flautist and guitarist Tom Oakes blends trad music with contemporary classical, jazz and eastern influences in a lunchtime gig on Sat 6 Aug.
Local funkateers James Brown Is Annie supply some Sunday evening Funk on the Fringe on both Sun 7 and Sun 14 Aug, while the late evening Sunday entertainment comes straight outta Dingwall with hip-hop award-winners Spring Break. Freaky Family serve up the jazz-funk on Thu 11 and Sat 13 Aug.
The Stephen Duffy Quartet (not that Stephen Duffy) pay homage to Nat, the Unforgettable Mr Cole throughout that first week. Then, in the final few days of the Fringe, it’s Billie Holliday who is being paid tribute to by Ali Affleck, Scotland’s Jazz Vocalist of the Year in 2013.
Another renowned vocalist, Valentina Montoya-Martinez, recently seen guesting for Moishe’s Bagel at Tradfest, will be unleashing her Latin American vocal talent in her show Viva La Cancion! on Tue 16 and Sun 28. Meanwhile, Edinburgh singer-songwriter Caroline Gilmour, who can be thankful for the vinyl revival since it’s given her a vinyl number one single, plays the lunchtime slot on Sun 21 and Sat 27.
Seven-piece funk outfit The Haggis Horns have lent their skills to the likes of Jamiroquai, Adele, Duran Duran, Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams, and Elbow and give two late evening performances on the middle weekend of the Fringe, while violin duo Elektra show what can be done by putting that intrument through its paces on Tue 23 and Wed 24.
It’s quite an assemblage of talent, and there’s more besides those mentioned here. For those who like a more refined Fringe experience, Merchant’s Hall looks good.
For the full programme see www.edfringe.com