Jazz & Blues Festival’s altered scale

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival moved online for its 43rd edition, with new sets recorded during lockdown, solo home videos and selections from the festival’s video archive. 4 days, 28 bands, 21 concerts, 5 talks, 2 films, 2 DJ sets, 1 workshop, 1 jazz quiz.


Running from Thursday 23 to Sunday 27 July 2020, the programme featured leading players from the thriving Scottish scene alongside musicians from the U.S., Norway, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The online festival kicked off with a compilation of interviews from the Scottish Jazz Archive, recalling early jazz experiences such as Tom Lawrie describing jazz balls at Edinburgh’s Oddfellows’ Hall with soon to be Hollywood icon Sean Connery acting as a bouncer.

Among the newly recorded music were sets from the award-winning Playtime Collective, popular swing quartet Rose Room and saxophonist Harry Weir’s explosive Trio AKU! Saxophonist Martin Kershaw’s homage to American writer David Foster Wallace was reprised, as were drummer Graham Costello’s STRATA Expanded commission from last year’s festival and pianist Fergus McCreadie’s duo sets with recent Parliamentary Jazz Awards Best Newcomer winner, vocalist Luca Manning and former Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year, fiddler Charlie Stewart.

Georgia Cecile, Lorna Reid, and Katie Whittaker were among the singers who appeared – and the festival’s popular Blues Afternoons featured Sandy Tweeddale, Nicole Smit, Jed Potts, Liz Jones and Main Street Blues.

International guests included recent stars of the Going Dutch project, Tin Men and the Telephone with their award-winning interactive live concert, London-based New Orleans pianist-singer Joplin Parnell, Nashville bluesman Stacy Mitchhart, Italians T.U.N. (Torino Unlimited Noise), and Belgians ESINAM.

One of the highlights as reported in the Scotsman newspaper was ‘the rumbustiously creative Playtime collective of reedsman Martin Kershaw, guitarist Graeme Stephen, bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Tom Bancroft [who] uprooted their regular slot at Edinburgh’s Outhouse to assemble – socially distanced, of course – in the more spacious Pathhead Village Hall, with guests saxophonist Laura MacDonald and singer Gina Rae and surprising success sound-wise’.

BBC Radio Scotland’s Jazz Nights programme joined the festival on Sunday 26th, with host Seonaid Aitken presenting archive performances from pianists Dave Milligan and Jacob Karlzon and guitarist Haftor Medboe. Available to listen to here - but you may need to register first.

Each of the four days is now up online for you to watch at your leisure and below is the recording of Day 3 – which was part of Scotland’s Music Convention - featuring Katie Whittaker Sings Etta James, Corto.alto: ‘Live from 435’, AKU, Graham Costello's STRATA EXPANDED, Rebecca Vasmant ft. Paix & Harry Weir Live. Watch here.

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