Dick Lee's Swingtet featuring Ali Affleck
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 15th Aug 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★

Picture, if you will, your idea of a swing band leader. Immaculate suit, slicked-down hair, trimmed moustache. The smooth, practised air of a master raconteur.

Wandering amiably onto stage in an un-tucked black shirt, socks and sandals, Dick Lee does not look like this bandleader. When he begins his patter, throwing out gentle dad jokes left, right and centre he doesn’t sound like one either. Then he starts to play and the image sits a bit more comfortably.

As befits their upscale Valvona and Crolla venue, the Dick Lee Swingtet present a more mature than usual Fringe show. Lee leads on sax and clarinet, supported by Tom Davis on electric guitar, Marcus Ford on acoustic and Owen MacDonald on bass. The programme is much as you’d expect, a mixture of instrumental numbers and swing torch songs.

The band are all fine professionals, each taking their turn in the spotlight with skilled solos and riffing cheerfully around their ensemble parts. There are even a couple of special guest stars in the form of Bill Jones, erstwhile trombonist and full-time headmaster. Another guest is Anne Evans, flautist and also Dick’s wife. These additions add a breath of fresh air to the proceedings as both are obviously having a great deal of fun playing with the Swingtet. Plus it opens the door for a very sweet husband-and-wife performance of ‘Moonlight Serenade’ (though this is introduced by Dick with the immortal words ‘If you enjoyed World War II, you’ll love this one…’)

For me though, the night really hits its swing when the Swingtet’s vocalist Ali Affleck takes the stage for a range of Billie Holiday classics. She has a beautiful tone, whether in up-tempo numbers like ‘Of Thee I Sing’ or sadder, slower tracks like ‘Stormy Weather’. What’s more, her stage manner as the frontwoman is impeccable.

For someone acclimatised to the whirlwind of the rest of the Fringe, this show does move quite slowly and a little gently. Possibly one for the Edinburgh locals more than the visiting tourists, it’s still a very relaxing, very pleasant end to the day.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

Performances

The Blurb

Classic swing jazz from Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Django Reinhardt, played con brio by four masters of swing, featuring guest vocalist Ali Affleck's inspired interpretations of the songs of Billie Holiday.