Women take centre stage at the newly expanded Aberdeen Jazz Festival
- Alex Johnston
- 30 January 2018
Headliners for 2018 include Zoe Rahman, Camille Thurman, Myra Melford, Georgina Jackson and Laura MacDonald
The Aberdeen Jazz Festival has announced its 2018 programme, and it's doing well: what has been a five-day festival is now eleven days, with a slew of fine international and Scottish musicians.
The increased size of the festival has been made possible by increased funding from Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Inspired, whose chief executive Adrian Watson calls the festival 'one of the jewels in Aberdeen's crown,' adding that it's 'given the city a real dividend back.' The extended length of the festival has chiefly translated into more interaction, with more workshops, more meals-with-music and more parties.
But also, it's in tune with the times. In the past year we've seen unprecedented Women's Marches; Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman becoming the biggest ever box office draw for a film with a woman director; Lena Waithe being the first black woman to win an Emmy for best comedy writing; the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of #metoo, and less heralded but perhaps more far-reaching gains for women's rights around the world. How right, then, that the jazz festival this year should focus on women in jazz.
The opening day, Thu 8 Mar, is International Women's Day, and appropriately enough the opening artist is singer and trumpet player Georgina Jackson, resident singer with Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra. She gives a lunchtime workshop at the University of Aberdeen before performing at the Blue Lamp at 8pm the same evening with Aberdeen Jazz Orchestra. For a more intimate gig on the same evening, Alison Affleck, Graeme Stephen and Colin Steele perform favourites from the American songbook at the Carmelite Hotel, Balmoral. Stephen, one of the most adventurous guitarists in Scottish jazz, is at the Blue Lamp the following night with his trio of Mario Caribe (bass) and Tom Bancroft (bass), plus Shetland fiddle master Chris Stout.
Zoe Rahman is one of Britain's finest pianists, bringing her Bengali heritage into a background of classical training and jazz, and she appears with her trio of Alec Dankworth (bass) and Gene Calderazzo (drums) at the Blue Lamp on Sat 10 Mar at 8pm. Also at the Blue Lamp on Fri 16 Mar, don't miss Myra Melford and her band Snowy Egret. Melford is a pianist, composer and veteran of the New York avant-garde scene, and her music is consistently exploratory and exciting; Snowy Egret features top-class collaborators in guitarist Liberty Ellmann, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeter Ron Miles and regular Milford bassist Stomu Takeishi.
The festival brochure's cover star is the hugely engaging NYC saxophonist and vocalist Camille Thurman, who can blow like Joe Henderson one minute and sing like Sarah Vaughan the next; check out her extraordinary one-woman performance of 'There Will Never Be Another You'. She's at the Blue Lamp on Sat 17 Mar. Also at the Blue Lamp, MOBO-award winner Soweto Kinch brings his blend of jazz, hip-hop and spoken word for an 11pm show on Fri 9 Mar.
One guaranteed roof-raiser is the London Afrobeat Collective, who play The Lemon Tree on Fri 16 Mar; they draw on funk, rock and Latin music in the name of playing their own version of the music that the great Fela Kuti coined a name for. Their high-energy live shows have gone down a storm at Glastonbury and Latitude, so who knows what will happen to the Lemon Tree.
Elsewhere, the programme is heaving with jazz. Scott Hamilton and Brian Kellock team up for what will surely prove to be a fantastically gentlemanly duo session at the Carmelite Library on Sat 17 Mar; jazz-funk-folk-rock Fat Suit share a bill with Werkha, aka Tom A Leah, at the Lemon Tree on Sat 17 Mar; Manchester's Riot Jazz Brass Band bring their New Orleansian spin to tunes like Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer' and Britney Spears' 'Toxic' at the Lemon Tree on Thu 15 Mar; Ola Onabulé's jazz-inflected soul singing at the Blue Lamp on the same night; the always excellent Laura MacDonald in the West End Jazz Trail on Sun 18 Mar, and much else besides. There's also a screening of Damien Chazelle's Whiplash, just to remind us that, deep down, jazz isn't so much about imagination, musicality, community and freedom, as it is about white men shouting at each other. (Just kidding! La La Land was great.)
The Aberdeen Jazz Festival runs at various venues, Aberdeen from Thu 8--Sun 18 Mar 2018.