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Ten picks for the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

This year, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blue Festival turns the big 4-0. Their anniversary year has a packed programme of events, and though it was a hard job, we've picked ten that we're excited about.

1. 40th Anniversary Gala Concerts

As well as serving as two excellent birthday parties, the Jazz Gala Concert and the Blues Gala Concert are opportunities to sample lots of different styles in one fell swoop, as some of the stars of Festival showcase their styles. The Jazz line-up includes Martin Taylor, Tommy Smith, Carol Kidd and Rose Room, while the Blues Gala features the stylings of Maggie Bell, Bernie Maupin and Tim Elliot.

Event info: Jazz Gala - Friday 13 July, Assembly Hall, 8pm, £22.50-£27.50; Blues Gala - Friday 20 July, Assembly Hall, 8pm, £22.50-£27.50.

2. The Bratislava Hot Serenaders

Moving to the jazz age, The Bratislava Hot Serenaders definitely evoke the era of the Great Gatsby. This simply sensational 21-piece band plays vintage swing and hot jazz, plus dance music from the 20s and 30s, with extraordinary authenticity and pizazz. 

Event info: Wednesday 18 July, Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £22.50-£27.50.

BRATISLAVA HOT SERENADERS

3. Keyon Harrold

Hailed as “the future of the trumpet” by Wynton Marsalis, and “one to watch” by Rolling StoneKeyon Harrold has toured with some of the jazz and pop world's biggest names (Beyoncé, Gregory Porter, Common), Keyon, finally earned a star turn as the voice of Miles Davis in Don Cheadle-helmed biopic “Miles Ahead”, for which he won a Grammy Award. Now he tours with his own music “a sonic blend of past, present and future” (Downbeat) and features his crack young band in music that can be sweeping and cinematic, dense with contemporary beats, and true to the jazz tradition.

Event info: Saturday 14 July, George Square Spiegeltent, 7.30pm, £20.50.

4. Davina and the Vagabonds 

This band has created a stir with their high-energy live shows, brilliant musicianship, sharp-dressed professionalism and commanding stage presence. Their shows are filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul swagger, dark theatrical moments that evoke Kurt Weill, and tender gospel passages. Davina’s voice and stage presence have been compared to Etta James, Fats Domino, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Betty Boop, but comparisons don’t suffice; she is a true original.

Event info: Thursday 19 July & Friday 20 July, Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £18.50-£27.50.

5. Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton 

Jerron carries the torch for traditional acoustic blues. He’s the most sensational newcomer in acoustic blues since the originals left us. He plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, piano, harmonica, Cajun accordion, and the bones, most of them brilliantly. He sings with a classic weary tone when he wants, and is cheerfully bright on upbeat tunes. He tells stories and jokes that show he’s as smart as a button, easing audiences into a good time. He mixes it all in the true songster tradition: ragtime, hokum, old time, French reels, Appalachian mountain music and, of course, blues, and he always leaves audiences smiling.

Event info: Tuesday 17 & Wednesday 18 July, Teviot Row, 5.30pm, £14; Saturday 21 July, Teviot Row, 4.30pm, £14.

Jerron Paxton

6. Mark Hendry

Inspired by Charles Mingus to play the bass, Mark Hendry is currently studying Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Aged 20 he shows a scarcely believable maturity writing brilliantly; creating absorbing, impactful, and exciting new music that appeals to a wide-range of audiences marrying Jazz, Classical, Folk and Rock worlds. He showcases both his Octet and two new suites written for large ensemble (23 musicians on stage). The first is centred around Endangered Species, the second on George Orwell‘s dystopian classic 1984.

Event info: Mark Hendry Large Ensemble, Friday 20 July, Teviot Row,  6.30pm, £12.50.

7. Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band

The all-female Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band is a supergroup made up of some of the most sought after young stars of the New Orleans Traditional Jazz scene. This sextet was formed in 2016 and includes clarinet (Chloe Feoranzo), trumpet (Marla Dixon), trombone (Haruka Kikuchi), guitar (Molly Reeves), washboard (Defne ‘Dizzy’ Incirlioglu) and bass (Julie Schexnayder). Between them they have performed with Pokey LaFarge, Scott Bradlee Post Modern Jukebox, New Orleans Jazz Vipers as well as playing at iconic New Orleans venues such as Preservation Hall

Event info: Friday 20 July, Piccolo, 8.30pm, £16.50.

Jazz Band

8. Kurt Elling

The Washington Post said: "Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. He has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.” Hailed as the standout male vocalist of our time by The New York Times, Grammy Award winner Kurt Elling’s rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired music making.

Event info: Sunday 15 July, Assembly Hall, 8pm, £22.50-£27.50.

9. Mardi Gras

In its 40th Anniversary Year, the Mardi Gras is a truly intercontinental affair with bands from South Africa, USA and Europe, an Australian singer as well as the cream of local talent. 

Event info: Saturday 14 July, Grassmarket, 1pm (free).

10. Edinburgh Festival Carnival

The seventh Edinburgh Festival Carnival delivers a dazzling spectacle under the castle, with music, dance, costumes, circus, acrobats and puppetry, from all over the world, and all over Scotland! Including: Bombrando (Portugal), Gwanaval (France), Nice (Iceland), Enjoy Street Theatre (Italy), Edinburgh Chinese Art and Culture Committee, Artscape Theatre (South Africa), Edinburgh Samba School, Beltane Society, Pulse of the Place, Brass Aye,  Dream Warriors (USA), Meninos do Morumbi (Brazil), 3Canal (Trinidad), Acitae (Cuba), Barefeet Acrobats (Zambia), Kalentura (Netherlands), La Paranxza del Greco (Italy).

Festival Carnival

Event info: Sunday 15 July, Princes Street Gardens, 1pm (free).

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes place across the city, from Friday 13 - Sunday 22 July. It is supported by the National Lottery through our Open Project Fund.

This article was published on 12 Jul 2018