Aberdeen Jazz Festival announces top-drawer programme for 2016
Soweto Kinch, Ralph Alessi, Otis Taylor and Grainne Duffy among headliners
Scottish jazz festivals are healthily diverse. Just as jazz tends to divide itself into Modern and Traditional, so do its festivals; for every classily modernist, genre-hopping skronk-fest you'll find two or three unassuming rural shindigs devoted largely if not entirely to tubby men in waistcoats playing 'Jeepers Creepers'. On the strength of its 2016 programme, the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, now in its sixth year, is placing itself firmly in the former camp.
There's some great Scottish talent on show, notably the wonderful Graeme Stephen and his quartet; piano/guitar duo Dave Milligan and Kevin MacKenzie; saxophonist Alan Barnes with pianist and national treasure Brian Kellock; Alison Affleck and her band singing American standards; and the boys and girl from Rose Room with their sparkling take on gypsy jazz. In welcome news, Colin Steele has brought back his 10-year-dormant quintet, which drops in for a date on their short tour before recording album no. 4.
But if you need a more compelling reason to head north-east, consider the international lineup. Downtown NYC trumpeter and ECM artist Ralph Alessi and his Baida Quartet bring classy abstraction to the Blue Lamp (Alessi has his cuddly side: 'Baida' is not some esoteric Romance-language concept,but the way Alessi's toddler daughter used to pronounce the word 'blanket'.) Manchester's Riot Jazz Brass Band play an infectious blend of jazz and dance music. For those in need of whisky-soaked blues-rock, Irish singer-songwriter-guitarist Grainne Duffy looks like she's all cheekbones and attitude, being only slightly larger than her own guitar, but she's been soaking up Peter Green and Bonnie Raitt from an early age and she sounds like the bad-penny daughter of both of them. On Sunday night, you face a tough choice of closing concert: it's either intense electroacoustic jazz from London's Soweto Kinch at the Blue Lamp, or gruff-voiced 'trance-blues' master Otis Taylor and his band at the Lemon Tree.
As the 18th century critic, lexicographer and soundbite-generator Samuel Johnson put it, when asked if the Giant's Causeway was worth seeing: 'Worth seeing, yes; but not worth going to see.' This year's Aberdeen Jazz Festival is definitely worth going to see. Of course, if you already live there, lucky you.
Aberdeen Jazz Festival runs from Wed 16 – Sun 20 Mar 2016 and tickets are on sale now.