Tradfest might be full of Scottish traditional music, but ironically this gig by Edinburgh locals is anything but. Klezmer, Argentinian tango, French chanson, Irish jigs, Indian ragas, Elizabethan madrigals – it all goes into the Moishe’s Bagel musical melting pot, and has an audience of devotees chair-dancing the night away.
Tonight, one of their number is on the injury list. Regular fiddler Greg Lawson trapped his finger in an automatic door a few days ago. He’ll live, but an injury like that is no laughing matter for a musician. For this evening’s purposes, though, supersub Jani Lang slips seamlessly into the team, and no beat is missed as he bows his way through tunes he’s only had two days to learn.
The performance also benefits from some Chilean flair upfront – singer Valentina Montoya Martinez joins the squad, augmenting the otherwise instrumental set with some sung numbers.
The focal point of a singer is valuable. For all the breadth and depth of the Bagel’s music, it leans towards the muso – fantastic to contemplate and to marvel at, but for a Saturday night headline slot perhaps a little erudite. The band as a whole have the air of a university music department about them – maybe more at home in the rehearsal room than leading a raucous dance party. Martinez’s numbers change the energy in the room, even if it’s still pianist Phil Alexander who leads the band and introduces the numbers.
Not that their music is ever less than vivid. There are some wonderful flourishes from each of the performers. The tabla of cowboy-hatted percussionist Guy Nicholson adds a particular spice, and the combination of musical styles is ambitious and impressively delivered.
This is a more informal venue for the band (as promoter Douglas Robertson says when introducing them, you’re more likely to find them at the Queen’s Hall) and from the reception they receive it seems that regular fans have followed them across. But they are on the cerebral rather than the visceral wing of the folk/world scene – more jazz than rock – so informality doesn’t necessarily play to their strengths. “This isn’t a pub gig,” Robertson reminds the audience beforehand. Sometimes – especially on a Saturday night – you want it to be.