SCOTLAND set for jazz filled spring as Fat suit, Ravi Coltrane and Joe Temperley play
A s the dust settles in the west and Glasgow puts the lid on its Celtic Connections melting pot for another year, Scottish jazz lovers can prepare themselves for some heightened touring and festival activity over the next couple of months, with such diverse talents as New York saxophone ace Ravi Coltrane, the Scots jazz-folk fusionists Fat Suit, soul star Ruby Turner and the return of US-domiciled Fife-born sax veteran Joe Temperley.
In a much-needed injection of touring sponsorship courtesy of Creative Scotland, Jazz Scotland, which organises five Scottish jazz festivals – including next weekend’s Fife event – has announced a succession of tours and one-off concerts across Scotland.
It kicks off, perversely, with a farewell – the final concert of Hamish McGregor’s widely popular Fat Sam’s Band, 30 years and a day since it made its debut. Its last fling will be a charity gig, in aid of the Maggie’s Centres, at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, on 15 February.
Excess adipose also figures in the name of Fat Suit, the young Scottish jazz-fusion big band, although there’s nothing flabby about their mix of folk strings and muscular brass. Sometimes compared to the US outfit Snarky Puppy, they include finalists from both young jazz musician and young traditional musician of the year competitions, and hit the road with a gig at Stereo in Glasgow on 17 February, going on to play Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee.
From New York comes the bearer of a potent jazz legacy as well as his own post bop prowess. The Ravi Coltrane Quartet sees Coltrane, son of the legendary John, in the company of his Blue Note recording band – David Virelles on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass and drummer Johnathan Blake. Kicking off a Glasgow-Edinburgh-Kirkcaldy tour at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on 28 February, they’re joined by the acclaimed Scottish New Focus Quartet, led by Konrad Wiszniewski on sax and Euan Stevenson on piano, with bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Alyn Cosker.
Also from across the Atlantic, but in this case returning, is the veteran Fife-born baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, for 25 years occupying the baritone chair in New York’s Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. At 85 still an inspired soloist as well as bandsman and educator, Temperley is joined by the inimitable Brian Kellock on piano for a five-gig tour starting in Dundee’s Gardyne Theatre on 4 March.
A long respected presence on the Scottish jazz scene, Colin Steele takes his reinvigorated Quintet on the road after a gap of five years, featuring his longstanding partner Dave Milligan on piano, saxophonist Michael Buckley, Calum Gourlay on double bass and Stu Ritchie on drums. With characteristically melodic, Scottish-accented themes as well as hard-driving excitement, Steele and company launch their tour at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre Studio on 27 March.
Fat Suit return on 20 March, this time playing a night at Dundee’s Gardyne Theatre, with two young Scots pianists, Joe Wright and Fergus McCreadie, both winners of BBC Scotland’s Young Jazz Musician of the Year. Looking further ahead, Jazz Scotland also brings Davina and the Vagabonds, who made an impact at last year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, back to the capital to present their brew of high energy blues, New Orleans jazz and soul at the Voodoo Rooms on 19 April .
Long before then, however, Jazz Scotland’s festival season kicks off on Friday with Fife, which runs from 6 to 8 February at venues across the kingdom. This year’s headliners include soul singer Ruby Turner, star vocalist of Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, and the fast-rising Scottish gypsy jazz swingers Rose Room, fronted by singer-violinist Seonaid Aitken. A new late-night at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews sees the building taken over by “The Blender”, with three stage areas presenting a heady brew of jazz, soul, folk, blues and diverse fusions thereof.
For straight ahead contemporary jazz content, the festival features the Brian Kellock Trio, the atmospheric-sounding young Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset and Fife-based sax player Richard Ingham’s new jazz quintet Strangeness and Charm.
The festival’s longstanding affection for traditional jazz informs appearances by the Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra and John Burgess’s Big Five, as well as local favourites the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra, directed by Richard Michael, and the Inverkeithing Community Big Band. Finally, the festival’s popular “Big Dance” returns to the Rothes Hall in Glenrothes, with the Scottish Swing Orchestra playing strictly for dancing.