Naturally 7 & Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra – Queen’s Hall

Okay, straight up. This was an odd event. Having an internationally acclaimed a cappella group who have worked with Michael Bublé and Coldplay being opened for by a local school’s jazz orchestra was certainly an interesting choice.

The opening act felt like an awkward high school talent show for the most part, with the orchestra’s leader telling awkward dad jokes (his John McEnroe impression felt less than timely), and at least one (presumably well-wined) mum getting up to dance brought back some memories for your reviewer. Once the music started, however, the children more than accounted for themselves (those waving at parents not withstanding). Particular acclaim must go to the three young vocalists who knocked it out of the park on ‘Mister Sandman’, and showed great joy at having done so.

Then was the main event, as it were, Naturally 7. They were simply a pleasure to watch. Their schtick is ‘vocal play’, having members mimic instruments with their voices to recreate some classic numbers, as well as a handful of originals. Some of the vocalism on show here was beyond words, the ability to perfectly belt the guitar solo from ‘As My Guitar Gently Weeps’, sounding for all the world as if it were played on the electric itself, was enough to bring several audience members to their feet.

More scaled back, a version of ‘The First Time Ever I saw Your Face’ was incredibly sweet, and all the members were personable as they recounted humorous anecdotes around the selection of their songs. The simple staging, combined with legitimate smile-on-your-face talent made the hour and half set with the group virtually fly by, and had many members of the audience clearly wishing it could continue for as long as possible.

The only real issue with the evening was with the pairing. There seemed to be no thematic link between a jazz orchestra and a cappella wizardry (unless the sheer number of instruments in the first section was to balance out the complete lack thereof in the second). Had the headliners been a jazz act themselves, then the children would have been a welcome addition. Again, I cannot over-stress their talent, but it felt disjointed and out of place. Individually, both acts were enjoyable, just in markedly different ways, so it felt like a night lacking identity. Like I said, odd. Odd indeed.


PHOTOS: Queen’s Hall

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Scott Redmond

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