The Glasgow Jazz Festival focuses on local talent
After two years confined to pandemic-induced digital streaming performances, the Glasgow Jazz Festival returns this month with a packed four-day programme, featuring some 150 musicians, including an esteemed American jazz veteran, British outfits cutting-edge and a “festival within a festival” showcasing Dear Green Place’s ever-bubbling melting pot of evolving talent.
Highlights include the festival’s opening concert, at The Drygate on June 16, featuring British Latin jazz band 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, a former associate of Towndrow, who returns to Glasgow to conduct his own big band at Óran Mòr the following night.
The festival’s closing concert at St Luke’s features much-loved 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 foremost accompanists of modern jazz”, having played with jazz legends such as Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Miles Davis, and in particular as an early band member of Herbie Hancock in the 1970s. Williams’ quartet will be backed by emerging Scottish saxophonist Rachel Duns.
Between these end-of-book concerts, the festival hosts an intriguing variety of musicians from Glasgow and the wider UK, including a solo piano concert in the Town Hall Recital Hall which sees the award-winning young pianist Fergus McCreadie share the poster with Scottish jazz. legend Brian Kellock.
There are also cinematic delights, as the 1915 silent film Alice in Wonderland receives a live score at the Blue Arrow, composed by pianist Paul Harrison with a band including singer Rachel Lightbody, saxophonist Norman Willmore , bassist Brodie Jarvie and drummer Tom Bancroft.
In the vocal stakes, local winner Georgia Cecile headlines another St Luke gig, while Marianne McGregor, winner of the Best Female Vocalist category at last year’s Scottish Jazz Awards, also plays In this room. British Jazz Award winner and famous scat singer Anita Wardell, meanwhile, appears at the Blue Arrow with her trio of guitarist Malcolm MacFarlane and Mezcla bassist David Bowden.
Other festival stars include Glasgow saxophonists Brian Molley and young laureate Matt Carmichael, as well as local jazz-funksters, the Nimbus Quartet. From London come acclaimed crossover band James Taylor Quartet, saxophonist, composer and Jazz FM Award winner Binker Golding as well as contemporary London newcomers Ebi Soda, whose jazz is imbued with a certain post-punk ethos, soundscapes expansive, grooves and exciting brass lines.
“It’s so special to be back this year with an all-in-person festival,” said longtime event director Jill Rodger. “We have focused this year on local talent, because the last two years have been so difficult for so many musicians. We wanted to make sure we supported them as much as possible with this year’s programming.
Having pledged its commitment to the Keychange initiative to achieve a 50-50 gender balance, Glasgow Jazz Festival continues to champion female jazz talent, with 50% of this year’s performances featuring women.
Rodger is particularly excited about the ‘festival within a festival’, With Love, From Glasgow, hosted by acclaimed Glasgow DJ, host and producer Rebecca Vasmant. Taking place all afternoon and evening in Óran Mòr on the 19th, the event will feature rising local outfits including Marco Cafolla and Konrad Wiszniewski’s soul-jazz adventure Mama Terra, the eclectic Azamiah with singer India Blue and harpist Romy Wymer (due to release their debut album next year), singer, poet and interdisciplinary artist Gillian Katungi, aka Peace, and the dynamic Blue boar Brass, led by saxophonist Harry Weir.
Independent of the wider festival, With Love, From Glasgow is an event that Rodger describes as being close to his heart: “Because it celebrates the best of Glasgow’s emerging and established talent, which I strive to showcase with this festival every year.