15 November 2023Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra counts awards nominations success
Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra has five former members among the shortlists for the Scottish Jazz Awards 2023.
Saxophonist Helena Kay's second album, Golden Sands is in the running for Album of the Year. Pianist Ewan Johnston is one of five contenders in the Rising Star category. Bassists Calum Gourlay and Ewan Hastie are both in the Instrumentalist of the Year shortlist and pianist Fergus McCreadie's trio are in the Best Band shortlist.
The orchestra's long-serving musical director, Richard Michael, who is seldom lost for words, said: "I don't know what to say." He is obviously hoping that, since all five can't win, four of his former charges emerge triumphant when the results are announced on Thursday 7th December.
14 November 2023Voting opens for the Scottish Jazz Awards 2023
Voting has opened to the public for the Scottish Jazz Awards 2023. Shortlists across five categories have been selected by a panel drawn from press, media and promoters across the UK and the public have until 5pm on Wednesday 29th November to choose their preferred candidates.
Votes can be cast here and the winners will be announced at a ceremony due to take place at the Savings Bank in Glasgow on Thursday 7th December and hosted by musician and broadcaster Seonaid Aitken.
The shortlists are:
Rising Star Award, sponsored by Musicians’ Union
● Ben Shankland
● Ewan Johnston
● Gaia Jeannot
● Kimberley Tessa
● Nathan Somevi
The Fionna Duncan Best Vocalist Award, sponsored by Whighams Jazz Club
● Ali Affleck
● Georgia Cecile
● Louise Dodds
● Marianne McGregor
● Rachel Lightbody
Best Instrumentalist Award, sponsored by ESP Music Rentals
● Calum Gourlay
● Ewan Hastie
● Liam Shortall
● Matt Carmichael
● Norman Willmore
Best Album Award, sponsored by Birnam CD
● Confluence - Sean Gibbs
● Golden Sands - Helena Kay’s KIM Trio with Peter Johnstone
● Marram - Matt Carmichael
● Outwith The Circle - Paul Towndrow
● Sure Of You - Georgia Cecile & Fraser Urquhart
Best Band Award, sponsored by Pizza Express
● Fergus McCreadie Trio
● Mama Terra
● Matt Carmichael Quintet
● Tom McGuire & The Brassholes
09 November 2023Guitarist Louis Stewart's 1977 masterpiece re-released on vinyl
Out On His Own, the 1977 solo album by the late, internationally acclaimed Irish guitarist Louis Stewart, is re-released on vinyl on 24th November.
The first vinyl pressing since the 1980s of the album regarded as Stewart’s masterpiece, the remastered 180-gram vinyl edition follows the successful reissue on CD of the title by the newly reactivated Livia Records in February this year.
Originally recorded in late 1976 and released on LP and cassette in 1977, and on CD in 1995, this new edition includes extensive sleeve notes by Irish Times jazz critic Cormac Larkin and a trove of previously unseen photographs.
Stewart, who remains the only Irish jazz musician to attain front-rank status, recorded the album in Bray, just outside Dublin, while at the peak of his powers. At the time he was a member of saxophonist Ronnie Scott’s band and was playing nightly with top line visiting musicians at Scott’s club.
Having made his award-winning debut at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1968, Stewart was soon playing with major names. Over the course of a long career, he appeared on over seventy albums and toured and recorded with Benny Goodman, JJ Johnson, George Shearing and Tubby Hayes, as well as Ronnie Scott. He also formed mutual admiration societies with fellow guitarists Joe Pass, Jim Hall and Martin Taylor.
Livia Records was founded by Dublin artist Gerald Davis to release Out On His Own, after Davis produced Stewart’s debut album, Louis the First, in 1975. More releases followed before Livia ceased operations on Davis’ death in 2005. Stewart died in 2016. Dublin radio presenter Dermot Rogers began a reactivation project in 2021 and with Davis’ family’s blessing is overseeing a programme of reissues on the re-launched Livia Records. A duo album by Stewart and pianist Noel Kelehan, Some Other Blues was released in May this year and further releases are due in 2024.
Out On His Own features Stewart playing a repertoire of jazz and Great American Songbook standards, tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chick Corea and Steve Swallow plus an interpretation of an Irish traditional tune, She Moved Through the Fair, and a self-composed blues.
Reviews of the reissue have been glowing, as was the response to the original, with Jazzwise recognising Out On His Own as “a master class in modern jazz guitar” and All About Jazz describing Stewart’s dexterity as “jaw-dropping.”
08 October 2023Scottish drummer flies high with New Zealand Air Force band
A former Edinburgh musician has lent his musical know-how to the Royal New Zealand Air Force and earned an honorary rank in the process.
Drummer John Rae, who led the ground-breaking jazz group the John Rae Collective in the 1980s and went on to win awards for his jazz-folk band Celtic Feet, has produced the new release by the Royal New Zealand Air Force Jazz Orchestra, Kaiwhakatere, which is the Maori word for Navigator.
Working under the rank of Leading Aircraftman, Rae has overseen the collection of seven compositions, all drawn from New Zealand’s currently thriving jazz scene, and was even responsible for the album’s photography.
Rae, who emigrated to New Zealand in 2008, is from a well-known Scottish jazz family. His father, Ronnie, is a bass player whose credits include working with trumpeter/cornetist Alex Welsh and gigs with jazz legends including saxophonist Ben Webster, trumpeter Ruby Braff, vibist Red Norvo and guitarist Tal Farlow.
“I was delighted to be invited to work with the RNZ Air Force Jazz Orchestra,” says Rae, whose large ensemble experience includes leading his own Big Feet, a thirty-seven-piece amalgamation of jazz big band and pipe band and drumming with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. “The standard of musicianship is very high and the orchestra’s adventurous approach might surprise people who associate military bands with a certain kind of discipline.”
Kaiwhakatere is the orchestra’s second album, following its 2017 debut, Suites and Moods, although the band dates back to the swing era, having formed in 1938.
“The members of the Jazz Orchestra are mostly drawn from the larger RNZAF Band which performs regularly at Government House and the Pukeahu National War Memorial and at ceremonies including Anzac Day and state occasions,” says Rae. “They’re all reservists, although some are also freelance musicians, and on the new album we have saxophonist Oscar Laven, who made quite an impression internationally with his Questions in Red album towards the end of last year.”
Laven contributed one of the tracks on the album, Royal Blue, and another of the tracks was written by the award-winning jazz pianist and composer Anita Schwabe.
“The album gets its title from the understandable connection between the Air Force and navigation,” says Rae. “However, by coincidence, all the compositions, which include a vocal, Let’s Not Fall in Love, from Stephanie Paris, are inspired by some form or travel or change. We’re looking forward to hearing the response internationally but early feedback from reviewers and radio presenters in New Zealand has been extremely positive.”
04 October 2023Pianist's new album answers reviewer's request
Light Streams is the follow-up to the enthusiastically received debut album by Cork-born, Hertfordshire-based pianist John Donegan’s Irish Sextet, Shadows Linger.
A musician of huge experience – he has played with jazz luminaries Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Barney Kessel and Greg Abate as well as the world class Irish guitarist Louis Stewart – Donegan formed his Irish sextet just before the covid pandemic in 2019.
Featuring the Buckley brothers, Michael and Richie, on saxophones, Whirlwind Recordings artist Linley Hamilton on trumpet and a rhythm section of Donegan, bassist Dan Bodwell and drummer John Daly, the group represents all four corners of Ireland and illustrates the high quality of jazz musicianship that Ireland has to offer.
Following an initial tour, the sextet was put on hold until lockdown was lifted but Donegan used the hiatus to compose music specifically for the group.
“When I started this project, I was unaware of the wonderful musical cooperation between Michael and Richie Buckley,” says Donegan, who has also played with the brothers’ father, Dick Buckley. “I was delighted to discover that Shadows Linger was the first album they’d recorded together and the great vibe they and the other players brought to that recording continues on Light Streams.”
The “sheer panache” and assertive playing that Jazzwise magazine’s Peter Vacher identified in his four-star review of Shadows Linger also feature again on Light Streams, which comprises ten Donegan compositions including the reflective title track, the bright melodic opener What’s This? and the punchy, imaginatively written Showtime.
Donegan’s hallmark, as a composer and an improviser, is his finely honed melodicism. His music is carefully crafted, often with pleasingly surprising shifts in harmony and his overall concept reflects his love for both the direct, bluesy communication and crisp attack of the Jazz Messengers and the melodic spirit of his native Irish traditional music.