10 Edinburgh Jazz Festival highlights not to be missed

Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds. Picture: contributed
Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds. Picture: contributed
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AN expected 67,000 people will attend this year’s Jazz and Blues Festival, which kicks off tomorrow.

With more than 170 concerts to choose from, and some of the biggest names in jazz, blues and soul taking part – including Jools Holland, Curtis Stigers and The Average White Band – deciding what to see can be overwhelming. Here are ten gigs definitely worth catching.

Curtis Stigers: Festival Theatre, tomorrow, 8pm, £25.50-£37.50

The suave sophistication, presence and sheer musicality of Curtis Stigers is stunning. The singer and saxophonist plays a concert with his top class US Band at the Festival Theatre tomorrow. Expect everything from classic swing to contemporary songs, classics from the Great American Songbook to his early pop hits. Stigers is the jazz man of the moment for discerning listeners.

Amythyst Kiah: City Arts Centre, Sunday, various times, £10

The Southern Gothic, alt-country blues singer/songwriter has eclectic influences, drawing heavily on old time music (Mississippi Sheiks, Son House, Jimmie Rodgers, Olla Belle Reed, Carter Family) and is inspired by the vocal stylings of R&B and country music from the 1950s-1970s. A powerhouse vocalist.

Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds: Various venues, July 15-23, £12.50-£18

Davina Sowers brings her extraordinary band The Vagabonds to the George Square and St Andrew Square Spiegeltents. The music is a mix of Fats Domino and Amy Whitehouse, while Sowers’ New Orleans charm and Memphis swagger means a retro good time is guaranteed. One of the hottest tickets at last year’s Festival.

Jan Garbarek Group: Festival Theatre, Wednesday, 8pm, £25.50-£37.50

The Norwegian saxophonist and composer is perhaps the best known European Jazz musician of the last 50 years. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty and power of his saxophone tone: pure, keening, sharp-edged and crystalline, and hearing it in the context of his live group is quintessential Garbarek.

Ala.Ni: City Arts Centre, July 19-20, various times, £10-£13.50

You could compare Londoner Ala.Ni to a contemporary Billie Holliday and argue that her vocals are as searing as Minnie Riperton’s. But that would be a disservice because the thing about this singer is that she is unique. After graduating she became a backing singer, working for Andrea Bocelli, Mary J Blige and Damon Albarn before striking out on her own.

Ryan Quigley Band featuring Andrew Strong: Queens Hall, July 21, 8pm, £16-£20

Swinging 60s soul and R’n’B, from Ray Charles to Wilson Pickett, and marking the 75th Birthday of Otis Redding; Ryan Quigley is the trumpeter and arranger to the stars, from Robbie Williams to Tom Jones, and he’s put together a special band to play the great songs from the era of Stax and Atlantic Records, with The Commitments film lead singer, Andrew Strong.

Bryan Carter: Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square, July 22, 7.30pm, £12.50

The festival’s cover star, sensational drummer Bryan Carter, started playing drums aged just three and has toured with Kurt Elling, released five albums under his own name and just been appointed drummer on a new US variety show starring Maya Rudolph and Marting Short, Maya and Marty. Check him out.

Warren Haynes: The Queen’s Hall, July 22, 8pm, £25-£27.50

Guitarist Warren Haynes has become well known over the past 35 years for his work with the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and various Grateful Dead offshoots. Yet even after all that time, he reckons some of his fans will be surprised by a not-often-seen side of the veteran rocker – a love of rootsy/Americana with folk-based songwriting and soulful vocals.

Jools Holland & His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra: Festival Theatre, July 23, 7.30pm, returns only

Following his sold-out show in 2015, the undisputed king of boogie woogie, swing and R’n’B is back, ready to deliver fantastic musicianship and good vibes. Jools and his star-studded Band will be joined by regular guests Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall, and special guests Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson from The Selecter.

The Average White Band: Festival Theatre, July 24, 7.30pm, £25.50-£37.50

The legendary Average White Band have been distilling their special blend of R’n’B, jazz, soul, and Motown for 40 years now yet still invest live shows with all the energy and excitement they did when Pick up the Pieces, Cut The Cake and 
Person To Person were charting. Founder members Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre, front the group to keep the flame of classic soul/funk burning bright.

Full details of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, July 15-24, can be found online at www.edinburghjazzfestival.com or by calling 0131-473 2000