Jazz and Dixie music have long been associated with the United States, particularly in New Orleans. Montreal in Canada also offers an impressive array of toe-tapping rhythms with it’s annual Jazz festival. However, there are a few towns in Scotland which could give both cities a run for their money in the jazz stakes.
One such town is Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway. It lies just north of Carlisle in the south west of Scotland. This year it hosted it’s 14th Annual Jazz Festival from June 16th -19th. The festival began as a small affair in 1997 with 6 bands playing in one venue over 2 days. The event was organised by local business man Ally Thomson who was a fan of jazz music himself. Since then the festival has grown over the years from showcasing Dixieland and New Orleans jazz to mixing it up with big band era swingers and ragtime jazz bands. Now the festival runs over four days on the weekend in June. Today, one of the highlights of the festival is the Brolly Parade, which as the name suggests, features dancers parading down the street with decorated umbrellas to the sounds of a marching jazz band. Despite the relatively low profile of Kirkcudbright, the festival attracts jazz musicians from all over the world. Some of the artists featured in this year’s event included German reed player Thomas l’Etienne, Canadian band “Hot Five Jazzmakers” and T.J Johnson.
Edinburgh also provides an avenue for jazz lovers with it’s Jazz and Blues Festival. It came into being in 1978 when banjo-player and guitarist Mike Hart brought jazz to the capital. Again, it started small with traditional jazz being played in local pubs free of charge. As the event expanded over the years the festival saw the addition of ticketed events and greater
opportunity for big bands to perform. As with the one in Kirkcudbright, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival attracts musicians on a global scale. However, it also provides a platform for showcasing local talent. Some of Scotland’s finest performers took part in this year’s event including the award-winning drummer Corey Dick who played with the Lorna Reid Quartet during the festival.
The Edinburgh Samba school entertained the huge crowds with their dancing on Grassmarket during the Mardi Gras at the beginning of the festival. Other Scottish musicians included Hamish McGregor’s Jazz and Co. and Fraser Spiers Band, the latter being one of Scotland’s top harmonica musicians.