Stan Tracey and Bobby Wellins among the highlights at Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2013
- Stewart Smith
- 16 July 2013
Pharaoh Sanders, Tia Fuller, Brian Kellock and Vilnius Quartet are also in the programme
Characterised by critic Gary Giddins as bringing the Cotton Club revue to the church, Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts, originally performed in 1965, 1968 and 1975, featured Ellington's big band, solo singers, a choir, and a tap dancer. This rare revival, featuring pianist Stan Tracey and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra chorus, is sure to be a highlight of the festival, the music as joyous as it is reverent.
Tracey, still going strong at 86, also performs with his Trio Quartet, augmented by Scottish-born tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins. Blending the skewed rhythmic approach of Thelonious Monk with the elegance of Ellington, Tracey is one of British jazz's greats. One of the more adventurous spirits in mainstream jazz, Tracey has made detours into the avant-garde, most notably through his ongoing partnership with Evan Parker.
Recent events by Arika and Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra prove that there is an audience for avant-garde jazz in Scotland, but it's an area that remains under-represented at the country's jazz festivals. Although Pharoah Sanders has long since relinquished his role at the vanguard of free jazz, it's always an honour to be in the presence of a true great. As long as you don't go expecting the fiery intensity he brought to John Coltrane's mind-blowing late period, or the ecstatic pan-African visions of classics like Karma, Thembi and Black Unity, you'll find much to enjoy in his soulful, Latin-tinged post-bop.
If all this seems a little too retrospective, there's no shortage of contemporary voices, from energetic young revivalists like the California Honeydrops to Beyonce's saxophone lieutenant Tia Fuller (her own style is more Young Lion bop than 'Crazy In Love'). The programme also showcases the current Scottish jazz scene with gigs from Brian Kellock, Martin Kershaw, Phil Bancroft, Konrad Wisznievski Quartet and Euan Stevenson's Vilnius Quartet.
Various venues, Edinburgh, Thu 18–Sun 28 Jul.