Edinburgh Jazz Festival: Why I’m crossing the tracks

Cross The Tracks is a new strand, or sub-programme, of performances within the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival.

Ghostpoet is among the artists who will feature at the new strand of the jazz and blues festival. Picture: complimentary
Ghostpoet is among the artists who will feature at the new strand of the jazz and blues festival. Picture: complimentary

In putting together this project, my aim was simple: to provide a platform for leftfield, upcoming or “underground” artists within the wider context of traditional jazz and blues, while demonstrating how this heritage runs through even the most cutting-edge of new productions.

So, Cross The Tracks features breakthrough artists making international waves with music that fuses elements of jazz, funk, electronica, hip-hop, rap and beyond, but who may not have been considered for inclusion in the main programme until now. Cross The Tracks also aims to have a dual effect of introducing a new audience to the enduring sound of jazz and blues music.

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If I was asked for a defining characteristic between the main jazz festival programme and Cross The Tracks, it would come down to what is referred to as “black” music – the musical ark that left Africa unwillingly with the slaveboats, spread to North America, the Caribbean, Latin America and is now the bedrock for all western popular music. It’s a culture that strives for new ground, reaching out across genres, but remains anchored in its own heritage.

This can be seen in all of the acts featured in Cross The Tracks: the fusion of hip-hop and New Orleans street music in the irresistible Hot 8 Brass Band, Hidden Orchestra’s use of sampled, looped jazz rhythms, Joe & Sekou’s melding of traditional Malian instrumentation and funk beats, Snarky Puppy’s updating of the jazz-funk fusion manifesto, Submotion Orchestra’s stunning blend of jazz, dub and cutting-edge electronics, Haggis Horns’ North English take on the heaviest 70s US funk, and finally London rapper Ghostpoet – who seems to embody all of the above in a singular, urgent, Mercury-nominated, musical message.

But it’s easy to think too deeply about such concepts. What is on offer is high-quality, thought-provoking, hugely enjoyable gigs that will appeal to fans of good music, whatever label you want to give it. Simple.

• Cross The Tracks shows are spread throughout the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, beginning with Hot 8 Brass Band this Friday. Full programme at www.crossthetracks.com