What makes the 2024 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival so special?

From New Orleans jazz of the 1920s to the freshest hippest sounds from at home and abroad, the 10-day Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival programme can be guaranteed to excite all music lovers. So, here’s 10 reasons why it's so special and why you should join us during those 10 days.

First up, there's the Musical Range

Originally, the festival featured traditional jazz performances played in Edinburgh’s pubs, and it slowly evolved to feature a more diverse range of styles.  For fans of Jazz music though there are a lot of options - Contemporary jazz, Trad jazz, Swing jazz, Vintage jazz, New Orleans jazz... and all that jazz! The Festival also boasts a particularly strong Blues showing, with Blues rock, Memphis blues, Mississippi blues, San Francisco blues, Chicago, acoustic and electric blues, and much more of that deep soulful sound. And recent years have seen a further expansion of the programme to take in funk and hip hop, creating a real eclectic musical mix.

And the Amazing History

It’s been many years since the late Mike Hart organized the first festival in 1979 as a free traditional jazz event inspired by the Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee. From those early days, veterans of the great American bands were joined by younger local players who were part of the mainstream revival – all creating a unique musical melting pot, which developed further with the addition of the blues. Every year a host of amazing moments added to the festival’s mystique, such as the time former US President Jimmy Carter opened Dick Hyman’s concert with Topsy Chapman at St Giles Cathedral.

Jazz - Program Covers

Where you're bound to see some Great Names

Stéphane Grappelli, BB King, Acker Bilk, Dionne Warwick, Humphrey Littleton, Georgie Fame and Elkie Brooks are just some of the names that have graced the festival stages over the years, all drawn by the festival’s amazing global reputation. This year American trumpeter Theo Croker, acclaimed singer Niki King, American blues star Mr Sipp, Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith, and cover star Nik West – just a few of the names within this year’s programme who are set to bring their unparalleled artistry to stages across the city. You’ll also be delighted to see some festival friends who’ve been sorely missed including Jools Holland, Davina & The Vagabonds and Jerron Paxton, and Fergus McCreadie presents two projects – one a Scottish premiere.

Jazz - Jools Holland

Alongside the Emerging Stars of today

Across all styles, the Festival presents those musicians that they think are amongst the most exciting playing today. Creative inspiration can come at every point in a musician’s life, and the programme offers a platform that inspires musicians to create something special for audiences to enjoy. Award-winning British trumpeter Laura Jurd [pictured below] curates a special programme ‘From Folk To Freedom’ - celebrating a host of world-class jazz musicians who are inspired and influenced by folk music. The programme features Norman WillmoreRuth Goller, Chris Batchelor, Simone Seales, Christos Stylianidies and Glasshopper, as well as Laura’s own band. 

Jazz - Laura Jurd

All surrounded by the best Local talent

Scotland is home to some of Europe's most exciting and adventurous jazz musicians. Sure, jazz has always been a potent element of the country’s musical scene, but the past few years have seen a number of musicians, groups, and collectives forging something substantive and new. The Scottish Jazz EXPO artists are the beating heart of our programme, and feature an array of new and exciting bands, projects and commissions including Helena Kay, kitti, Colin Steele and Anoushka Nanguy [pictured below]. The EXPO series also gives voice to the new wave of Scottish jazz including Rosalind Orr, Simon Herberholz, and Kimberley Tessa.

Jazz - Anoushka Nanguy

And a cool International vibe

From the start the Festival’s vision has been international, the place to take the pulse of the international scene. At the heart of the festival is the SPARK programme which shines the spotlight on the musical talents of partner countries. This year the focus is on the best in jazz from Czechia, with a programme curated in association with Veronika Friedlová of Mladí ladí jazz festival. Part of the Year of Czech Music, and organised in collaboration with the Czech Centre, we will welcome a host of new generation artists who are at the forefront of modern jazz in Europe. We look forward to introducing Endemit, Kristina Barta Trio, Nela Dusová, Treetop, Trio Henya, and Undo Redo to Edinburgh audiences. The Festival will also continue the partnership with i-Jazz, and the programme also includes artists from Belgium, the USA and France, among others.

In some amazing venues

The Festival takes place in the very best venues throughout Edinburgh, from the greatest concert halls to hip nightclubs, from the grandeur of the city’s Festival Theatre to the intimacy of bars and clubs around the city - with each venue chosen to complement to musicians performing. This year the Festival will take its show on the road to all 17 wards in the city, creating even more opportunities for people to dip their toe in their cool water. Everyone has their favourite and we must admit to a hidden love for the Spiegeltent in George Square [pictured below], the ultimate cabaret and music salon with a central seating area circled by wooden booths, set in the attractive surrounds of George Square Gardens.

Jazz - Speigeltent

Plus the outdoor delights of the Mardi Gras

Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, the Grassmarket area is a historic marketplace and event space – making it the perfect home for the Festival’s Mardi Gras [Saturday 13 July]. Non-stop entertainment and a party atmosphere abound, as a host of bands perform on multiple stages, bringing Dixieland, funk, soul, and brass band music to the heart of Edinburgh. Many of these bands showcase their concerts taking place in the festival and so the Mardi Gras becomes the essential place to get a feel for which tickets to snap up over the rest of the celebrations.

Jazz - Mardi Gras

And the Edinburgh Festival Carnival

A free, family music and dance event with a flamboyant, festive flavour, the Edinburgh Festival Carnival takes place on the opening weekend [Sunday 14 July] of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Expect colour, spectacle, sounds and electric atmosphere as Scotland's largest multicultural celebration returns to the streets of Edinburgh. Over 1000 carnival performers will present music, dance, costumes, puppets, circus, and acrobatics - with groups from Brasil, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Zambia, USA, South Africa, the Netherlands, Martinique and France, alongside Edinburgh community and arts companies.

Carnival Woman - EJBF

With a Digital Offer for those unlucky enough not to make it here

We continue the success of our digital concerts with the EJBF24 ONLINE programme, hosted in the EJBF Digital Hub. Across the 10 days of the festival, online audiences can enjoy some of the UK’s finest jazz and blues artists from the comfort of home for free. A concert will go live on each of the ten days of the festival and they will all be available until Friday 9 August so you can watch your favourite artists again and again.

Jazz - Filming

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival runs from Friday 12 to Sunday 21 July 2024, and full programme details can be found HERE.

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