Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

There's only one way to enter the summer...

Article by Ali Maloney | 15 Jul 2006
Although practically over before the mass convergence of festivals, the Starbucks Jazz & Blues Festival is an excellent opportunity for residents and premature tourists to take advantage of a packed program of outstanding music across the spectrum from ragtime to bebop. The most prominent events will be the two free outdoor ones over the opening weekend: the Mardi Gras and Jazz on a Summer's Day.

Recreating the heydays of New Orleans jazz, on Saturday the 29th the Grassmarket is turned into a bustling mardi gras, with several bands honking and tonking their way through the sunshine. The following day, usually drawing the biggest audiences to a jazz concert in the UK, Princes Street Gardens is turned into one big party with a sampling of the more traditional groups on the bandstand.

Playing the Queen's Hall, Maceo Parker is as important to funk as Herbie Hancock or James Brown, and the former George Clinton saxophonist should not be heard without your dancing shoes on. Another legend appearing will be pianist Chick Corea whose resume takes in everyone from Cab Calloway to Miles Davis. Alongside the virtuosic Martin Taylor, Django Reinhardt's grandson David will also be appearing as part of a swinging gypsy guitar trio, a genre to which he could be heir. Regarded as one of the finest jazz singers around, Rene Marie will be performing her own fire music in a four day residency at Malmaison on the waterfront in Leith.

There are also several familiar faces of the Edinburgh jazz scene: Brian Kellock's torrential piano excursions swap stages with the Balkan stomp-around of Moshie's Bagel, and Skinny favourites The Haftor Medboe Group showcase an unmissable transcendent epic new jazz.

The Spiegeltent is a prominent venue for this year's festival, and rightly so: the rustic beer hall decor is an excellent backdrop for jazz, and plays host to some feisty big band grooves, including festival regular Acker Bilk who swings with just about the smoothest charm around.

It is true that Starbucks packages its jazz in exactly the same way it does its coffee, and the festival lacks some of the excitement and hectic adventure that the Fringe provides, but you'll have plenty of time for that when you're not getting any sleep throughout August.

So whether you want to drift away to soulful blues or just get up and dance, there's only one way to enter the summer: swinging.
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival runs from July 28 to August 6. http://www.edinburghjazzfestival.co.uk