Jazz & Blues Festival takes Capital’s live music scene to a new level

Kandace Springs. Picture: contributed
Kandace Springs. Picture: contributed
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THE Capital’s live music scene swings up a notch later this month when the annual Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival celebrates a special year.

As the city celebrates 70 years of Festivals, the Jazz Festival marks 100 years of Jazz, with a range of unique performances and special events.

Blind Boys of Alabama. Picture: contributed

Blind Boys of Alabama. Picture: contributed

Over 10 days, and more 170 concerts, an eclectic array of performers from jazz legends to established blues stars and newcomers will entertain in the venues across the city.

It’s safe to say that no other Festival covers Jazz and Blues in the same way, and this year there are more venues than ever taking part in the celebration.

Festival co-producer Fiona Alexander explains, “The 2017 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is going Spiegeltent crazy, with one in George Square and one in West Princes Street Gardens at he foot of the Castle.

“They are beautiful art deco tents fitted out with wooden booths, stained glass and really deliver a Festival feeling.

Carol Kidd. Picture: contributed

Carol Kidd. Picture: contributed

“We are also using two other new venues the café bar at the Traverse and the beautifully refurbished Rose Theatre which has a fantastic and intimate auditorium as well as an informal basement.

“They join Festival Theatre and the Jazz Bar to build up a venue choice offering something for everyone.”

New and old acts will takes to these stages, where headliners include guitar greats John Scofield and Mike Stern, both of who perform with all star bands.

Other programme highlights find The Bad Plus (the group changed the face of the piano trio) come to town as well as two appearances by new charismatic star singer and pianist Kandace Springs.

New Orleans Swamp Donkeys. Picture: contributed

New Orleans Swamp Donkeys. Picture: contributed

Springs, who appears at the West Princes Street Spiegeltent on Saturday 15 July and the George Square Spiegeltent on Sunday 16 July, is the Festival’s 2017 cover star.

An artist who has toured the world supporting Gregory Porter, she has also released her album Soul Eyes on the prestigious Blue Note label and is a star in the making.

Having caught the attention of Prince, she found herself invited to perform with him for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain - she recalls he advised her to “be who you are.”

Springs also boasts appearances on The Late Show With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

With influences ranging from Billie Holiday to Nina Simone and Norah Jones, the American who collects and rebuilds vintage cars as a hobby, says, “I would like to be known as one of the younger people that are keeping jazz and soul alive and vibrant... I love the realness.”

Also on the bill this year are the Music Makers Blues Revue, featuring a galaxy of legendary southern blues veterans; Sarah McKenzie, the successor to Diana Krall; and the ebullient Davina Sowers, who returns for an extended Festival residency.

Sowers, leader of Davina and the Vagabonds, is delighted to be back.

She says, “Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is an absolutely magical Festival, it was on my bucket list: who can do something on their bucket list four times? It’s amazing to me.

“The magic comes from the people, the venues - Spiegeltents are amazing - and the city and its vibe.

“Edinburgh is beautiful and I have made so many great friends and bought so many shoes”.

Mixing old and new and bringing a distinctly Scottish flavour to the Centenary of Jazz celebrations Seonaid Aitken celebrates Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Smith salutes Coltrane and Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson are inspired by Stan Getz.

There’s also Tom Gordon who swings like Basie, Ryan Quigley who will revive the spirit of Dizzy Gillespie, and Calum Gourlay who rejigs Thelonious Monk.

“The jazz tradition in Scotland is iconic and known worldwide,” says Cllr Jason Rust, Chair of the festival’s Board of Directors.

“Today’s vibrant scene is constantly evolving and growing and our Festival continues to nurture and support both, the tradition and the future.

“We hope the Festival transcends the music itself and gets people down-town to see and experience a Festival to remember.”

And there really is something for everyone, insists Festival co-producer Roger Spence, “Jazz and blues aficionados will know the concerts they want to hear and we’ve got some really great choices this year.

“For those who don’t know the ins and outs, around 70 per cent of the programme is for you.

“If you enjoy great live bands in great atmospheres we’ve got so much that’s going to bring you pleasure, from soul to r’n’b to Memphis Blues to swinging jazz, it’s difficult to pick single things out.

“Our audiences absolutely love Davina And The Vagabonds and Rumba De Bodas, guaranteed crowd pleasers, and along with our own favourite jazz musician, Brian Kellock, they’re in residence for the Festival.”

Of course, it was in New Orleans where jazz began and the first jazz recording was made way back in 1917.

It’s a place that to this day remains a melting pot of styles and is still one of the most vibrant places for jazz and blues.

Consequently, it is well represented at the Festival with more than 30 concerts featuring New Orleans music, from the Louis Armstrong inspired New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band, to the second line brass of Soul Brass Band to the funk of Smokers World and Dumpstaphunk, the new modern jazz star of the trombone, David L Harris, and the hip-hop infused Hot 8 Brass Band.

“Other highlights to look out for are the sensational groups we’re bringing from New Orleans,” says Spence.

“There’s nowhere else you can hear so much great music from the current New Orleans scene than in Edinburgh for the Festival, unless you take a trip there yourself.”

On the Blues front, lovers of Southern, delta, Mississippi, Chicago, electric and acoustic blues are all catered for courtesy of a roster of American stars and homegrown talent.

Lisa Mills, Hamilton Loomis, Mr Sipp, Brandon Santini, Earl Thomas, and John Nemeth, Grainne Duffy, Matt Schofield and Connie Lush are amongst the international visitors, with the Scottish contingent including The Jensen Interceptors, Gerry Jablonski, Dana Dixon, Charlotte Marshall, Main Street Blues and Neil Warden.

It all sets up the 2017 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival to be one of the most exciting yet.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2017, 14-23 July, full programme of concerts, venue details and ticket prices can be found at www.edinburghjazzfestival.com, tickets also available from 0131-473 2000 or in person from The Hub, Castlehill