Date clashes leave Scottish jazz fans with some difficult decisions

Julian Argüelles PIC: Miguel EstimaJulian Argüelles PIC: Miguel Estima
Julian Argüelles PIC: Miguel Estima
This Leap Year February may consist of 29 days rather than its usual 28, but it can also boast an extraordinary effervescence of jazz events for this often dreary time of year, coalescing around the weekend of the 21st to the 24th and leaving aficionados head-scratchingly spoiled for choice.

For a kick-off, that weekend sees Edinburgh host its Scottish Jazz Weekend, with some of the cream of trad and contemporary Caledonian jazz, plus notable visitors from further afield, converging on the capital’s venues including the Queen’s Hall, St Bride’s Centre, the Traverse and, of course, The Jazz Bar.

The weekend’s programme is nothing if not eclectic, ranging from the New Orleans sounds of Edinburgh’s own jazz diva, Ali Affleck, who plays one concert with her Red Hot Rhythm Makers and another with New Orleans-born pianist and singer Joplin Parnell, to the electronics of Herschel 36 and a repeat visit from the astonishing Belgian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist ESINAM.

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From Glasgow’s crucible of emergent contemporary jazz come the rumbustiously cross-genre Fat Suit as well as the funk and hip-hop inflected Nimbus Sextet. Also riding Glasgow’s new wave are the grooves and electronica of guitarist Joe Williamson’s new band Modulus, who appear with the similarly wired Trio TYR, whose sounds are inspired by Scots and Scandinavian landscapes. Also, in association with the Edinburgh Festival of Sound, Herschel 36’s percussionist Stuart Brown will debut Convergence, an intriguing new multimedia collaboration with new-media artist Stephen Curtis.

On more conventional jazz ground, the weekend sees a visit from acclaimed singer and vocal improviser Norma Winstone, supported by Scots vocalist Louise Dodds with pianist Steve Hamilton, and expect further vocal delights from the Glasgow-based British-French singer Emilie Boyd. Scotland’s longstanding resident Brazilian bass ace, Mario Caribe, will present his new outfit, Fret, with twin guitarists Graeme Stephen and Kevin MacKenzie plus drummer Alyn Cosker, as well as reuniting with longstanding bandmates, pianist Paul Harrison and the aforementioned Stu Brown, in his celebration of Latin music, Trio Magico. Stephen also appears elsewhere in the programme, alongside Fraser Fifield in their folk-jazz fusion duo. The weekend will also host various tributes to jazz greats, including singer Katie Whittaker paying homage to Etta James, while guitarist and vocalist Aki Remally reworks the Gil Scott Heron songbook.

Meanwhile, overlapping with the Scottish Jazz Weekend during a three-night tour which includes a gig at the Queen’s Hall on the 21st, the mighty Scottish National Jazz Orchestra also plays Glasgow City Halls the following night and Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen, on the 23rd. The programme should prove a memorable one, revisiting director and saxophonist Tommy Smith’s Planet Wave to mark the centenary of the inimitable and much missed poet Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s first national Makar, with whom Smith devised the piece back in 1997.

Planet Wave is a beguiling multimedia collage of jazz, electronica and visionary poetry. At its premiere at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Morgan’s epic and idiosyncratic account of the universe from the Big Bang onwards was read by the poet himself; this time around it will be narrated by actor Niall Greig Fulton.

As if all that weren’t enough, this crazy gig convergence also sees saxophonist Julian Argüelles, a leading figure in UK and European jazz and a founder member of the legendary Loose Tubes, play some rare Scottish gigs with his quartet. At the time of writing Argüelles, in the sterling company of pianist Ivo Neame, bassist Conor Chaplin and drummer James Maddren, is billed to play one of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s Late Night Studio Jazz sessions … yes, on the 21st, and the Catstrand Arts Centre, tucked away in beautiful New Galloway, the following night. At the time of writing, other possible Scottish dates were yet to be confirmed. Argüelles’s last quartet album, the Spanish-accented Tonadas, was superb, and as a live band, his quartet’s chemistry is renowned. Jim Gilchrist

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