PREVIEW: Glasgow (24-28 June) and Edinburgh (17-26 July) Jazz Festivals and and the EIF (August)

Playing at Glasgow on June 26th, and Edinburgh Aug 10th, the SNJO
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Patrick Hadfield takes a personal view of what the main Scottish festivals have to offer. He writes:

Although the weather might have other ideas, it is apparently summer, which means it’s festival time. North of the border, most of the jazz interest is confined to Glasgow Jazz Festival, later this month, and Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival in July – plus my favourite, the small, intimate Islay Jazz Festival in September, for which the line up for Islay has yet to be announced. We’re a bit spoilt for jazz festivals up here – we also had Fife, Dundee, Lockerbie and Aberdeen earlier in the year.

The timing of the big two means that those of us in the central belt can result attend gigs in both cities, if the wallet can afford it. Even so, there are lots of clashes during each festival, and one needs to plan. Here are my pick of the events.

GLASGOW – (24-28 June)

Glasgow Jazz Festival is centred on the City Halls complex, which incorporates the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket, which still has market traders signs around the gallery. There are gigs in a large number of other venues across the city, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing pianist John Taylor (25 June 8.00pm; City Halls Recital Room) in a solo concert (though that means I can’t see Partisans, Julian Siegel and Phil Robson‘s quartet, 25 June at 7.30pm at the Rio Club). There’s a chance to see another solo pianist couple of days later when Zoe Rahman plays City Halls Recital Room (27 June 7.00pm).

For a bigger sound, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra are joined by singer Eddi Reader for an interesting project, “Alba: the Songs of Scotland” (26 June 7.30pm, The Old Fruitmarket; they’re touring the Highlands and Islands before then – I’m hoping to catch them in Ullapool!).

The weekend brings many gigs. Evan Parker joins the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra on Sunday afternoon (28 June 2.30pm, City Halls Recital Room), which promises to be a lively affair. At the same time, though, are another two interesting gigs. Ryan Quigley and Paul Towndrow showcase their “With Strings” project, playing the music of Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown with an eleven piece string section (28 June 2.30pm, The Old Fruitmarket), and Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson bring their excellent New Focus Quartet to the the Tron Theatre Vic Bar (28 June 3.00pm).

The last Glasgow gig for me will be bassist Calum Gourlay playing his arrangements of Duke Ellington tunes in duet with harpist Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (28 June 7.30pm, City Halls Recital Room).


EDINBURGH – 17-26 July

Edinburgh Jazz Festival, a longer affair that stretches to over 150 gigs over ten days, starts with a bang with percussionist Antonio Sanchez and his band Migration (17 July 8.00pm, Festival Theatre Studio) and, at the same time, the BBC Big Band celebrate Frank Sinatra’s centenary with Curtis Stigers, Jacqui Dankworth, Todd Gordon (17 July 8.00pm, Festival Theatre).

The first weekend sees two very enjoyable, free outdoor events, the Mardi Gras (18 July 1.00pm, the Grassmarket) and Edinburgh Festival Carnival (19 July 2.00pm, Princes St Gardens); the former features three stages of jazz and blues, the latter an exuberant range of dancers and bands mingling with happy crowds in the shadow of the castle.

The festival regularly commissions a big band. This year, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra performs “Echoes of Ellington” directed by Ellington expert Pete Long. If they live up to previous performances, this should be unmissable (19 July 8.00pm, The Queen’s Hall).

Along similar lines, pianist Brian Kellock – a national treasure! – presents his Swingtet, featuring Scott Hamilton on saxophone and Warren Vache on trumpet and cornet. I’d be surprised if some Ellington didn’t feature with them, too, amongst others (20 July 8.00pm, George Square, Spiegeltent).

In complete contrast, a couple of days later Trio Red, with Tom Bancroft on drums, Tom Cawley on piano and Per Zanussi on bass, are being joined by poet and playwright David Greig. Whatever happens, it sounds intriguing (22 July 8.00pm, Festival Theatre Studio).

Calum Gourlay and Zoe Rahman are both playing in Edinburgh, too, though they are playing at the same time. Unfortunately, in different places. Rahman brings her trio, with Gene Calderazzo on drums and Alec Dankworth on bass, to the Festival Theatre Studio (24 July 8.00pm), whilst Gourlay is at the JazzBar with his “Thelonious” project, featuring Martin Speake (saxophones), Hans Koller (trombone) and David Dyson (drums). I think I’ll be checking out “Thelonious” to see what they do with the material!

The festival is making the most of the Tron Kirk: hosting six shows a day for ten days, it is almost a festival of its own. The gigs here cover a range of genres, with several singers and more mainstream and trad sounds than elsewhere, but my choice is a rare outing for the Dave Milligan Trio on the last day (26 July 3.00pm).

The last event in the festival for me will be another pianist, Stefano Bollani, who plays a solo show (26 July 8.00pm, Festival Theatre Studio).



Whilst the Jazz Festival might have finished, there are several events in the Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe which might interest jazz fans. The EIF has both Robert Glasper Trio ( 10 August 10.30pm, The Hub) and Jason Moran (13 August 10.30pm, The Hub), who will be playing a set on the theme of Fats Waller. On the Fringe, the JazzBar has a full programme with several shows a day, and Playtime at the Outhouse is planning some shows, though they’ve yet to finalise their programme. And at the Queen’s Hall, SNJO and Eddi Reader reprise their “Alba: the Songs of Scotland” show (10 August 7.30pm) for those of us on the east coast.

Categories: miscellaneous

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