Islay Jazz Festival
Various venues, Islay, Fri 15-Sun 17 Sep
Nine years ago, the announcement that a jazz festival was to be launched on the outwardly unlikely location of the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides raised a few eyebrows. Many felt it would be a one-year wonder, or might manage to roll on for a couple more before the organisers finally gave up swimming against the tide.
In fact, the tide has rolled the other way, and the festival has become not only a unique occasion on the Scottish jazz calendar, but one of the best-loved of the country’s jazz festivals. Like the mainstream-oriented Nairn International Jazz Festival and the more recent Aberdeen event, it has proved that there is jazz life well beyond the central belt.
Islay has unique charms of its own to offer would-be festival goers, but as well as natural beauty and seven distilleries making some of Scotland’s most famous malt whisky - Black Bottle remain the sponsors of the event - the festival can stand on its feet purely in programming terms.
The principal focus is always on Scottish jazz, led this year by the likes of Martin Taylor, Salsa Celtica, Brian Kellock, David Milligan and Tom Bancroft, but it never feels parochial. Apart from presenting a wide spread of music, from the traditional jazz of Fionna Duncan through to cutting edge experiment with Trianglehead, there is always an international dimension to proceedings, represented this year by American guests David Berkman, Scott Hamilton, and a newcomer to Scotland, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
Venues are equally varied, taking in the tranquil Columba Centre, several village halls, a couple of hotels, an RSPB Centre, a private house and two distilleries. Check out www.islayjazzfestival.co.uk of more details on how to get there, and what you can see and hear when you do.