Glasgow Jazz Festival to focus on homegrown talent
With a line-up that includes Matt Carmichael, Georgia Cécile, Brian Kellock, Fergus McCreadie and Rebecca Vasmant, this year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival will put Scottish artists in the spotlight, writes Jim Gilchrist
After two years confined to pandemic-induced digitally streamed performances, Glasgow Jazz Festival returns this month with a crammed four-day programme, featuring some 150 musicians, including an esteemed American jazz veteran, cutting edge UK outfits and a “festival within a festival” showcasing the Dear Green Place’s ever bubbling crucible of evolving talent.
Highlights include the festival’s opening concert, at The Drygate on 16 June, presenting the UK-based Latin jazz group TRYPL, in what should prove to be a high-powered double bill with Glasgow saxophonist Paul Towndrow and his trio. TRYPL’s formidable horn section includes award-winning trumpeter Ryan Quigley, an old associate of Towndrow’s, who returns to Glasgow to lead his own big band at Óran Mòr the following night.
The festival’s closing gig at St Luke’s features the much lauded veteran American bassist Buster Williams, with an all-star quartet including eminent jazz-fusion drummer Lenny White. Williams has been described as "one of the key sidemen in modern jazz", having played with such jazz legends as Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Miles Davis, and particularly as an early member of Herbie Hancock’s band during the Seventies. Williams’s quartet will be supported by emerging Scots saxophonist Rachel Duns.
Between these bookending concerts, the festival hosts an intriguingly diverse range of musicianship from Glasgow and the wider UK, not least a solo piano concert at the City Halls’ Recital Room which sees the award-winning young pianist Fergus McCreadie share the bill with Scottish jazz legend Brian Kellock.
There are cinematic delights, too, as the 1915 silent film of Alice In Wonderland receives a live score at the Blue Arrow, composed by pianist Paul Harrison with a band including vocalist Rachel Lightbody, saxophonist Norman Willmore, bassist Brodie Jarvie and drummer Tom Bancroft.
In the vocal stakes, local award-winner, Georgia Cécile, headlines another St Luke’s gig, while Marianne McGregor, winner of the Best vocalist category at last year’s Scottish Jazz Awards, also plays that venue. British Jazz Awards winner and noted scat singer Anita Wardell, meanwhile, appears at the Blue Arrow with her trio featuring guitarist Malcolm MacFarlane and Mezcla bassist David Bowden.
Other notables appearing on the festival bill include Glasgow saxophonists Brian Molley and young award-winner Matt Carmichael with their respective bands, as well as local jazz-funksters the Nimbus Sextet, who’ll be playing from their new and vigorously groove-driven album, Forward Thinker. From London comes the celebrated crossover outfit the James Taylor Quartet along with saxophonist, composer and Jazz FM Award-winner Binker Golding.
“It’s so special to be back this year with a fully in-person festival,” says the event’s longstanding director, Jill Rodger. “We’ve put a real focus this year on homegrown talent, as the last two years have been so difficult for so many musicians. We wanted to make sure that we were supporting them as much as we can with this year’s line-up.”
Having pledged its commitment to the Keychange initiative aimed at achieving a 50-50 gender balance, Glasgow Jazz Festival continues to champion female jazz talent, with 50 per cent of this year’s performances showcasing women.
Rodger is particularly enthusiastic about the “festival within a festival”, With Love, From Glasgow, curated by the celebrated Glasgow DJ, broadcaster and producer Rebecca Vasmant. Running all afternoon and evening at Óran Mòr on the 19th, the event will feature up-and-coming local outfits including Marco Cafolla and Konrad Wiszniewski’s soul-jazz venture Mama Terra, the eclectic Azamiah with vocalist India Blue and harpist Romy Wymer (due to release their debut album next year), vocalist, poet and interdisciplinary artist Gillian Katungi, aka Paix, and the dynamic Blue boar Brass, led by saxophonist Harry Weir.
Quite apart from the broader festival, With Love, From Glasgow is an event which Rodger describes as being close to her heart: “Because it celebrates the best of up and coming and established talent from Glasgow, which is something I strive to showcase with this festival each year.”
Glasgow Jazz Festival runs from 16-19 June, see www.jazzfest.co.uk .