08 April 2021Orchestra fills St Giles' Cathedral with colour and expression

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has announced its most ambitious, multi-dimensional event to date. 


Due to take place online from May 12 to 15, Where Rivers Meet celebrates the blues-driven, unfettered expression, spirit and excitement of jazz’s 1960s revolutionary “New Thing” through music and live visual art filmed in the architecturally striking setting of Edinburgh’s 12th century St Giles' Cathedral.


Combining the visionary musical ideas of saxophonists Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman and Anthony Braxton with the arranging talents of American pianist-composer Geoffrey Keezer, Tommy Smith, Paul Towndrow and Paul Harrison, the project features four outstanding saxophone soloists and the vividly expressive creations of Russian painter and multi-media artist Maria Rud.


Smith (tenor saxophone), Towndrow (alto), Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor) and Martin Kershaw (alto) take the solo spotlight on potent suites of Ayler, Coleman, Redman and Braxton’s music respectively as Rud responds with characteristically rich, soulful images.


"This concert is all about expression, the deepest emotion of our inner voice,” says Smith. “To reach that space where we summon heart and spirit, the soloists must bare their souls – that was the challenge and the achievement of much of the best of the free jazz of the 1960s and beyond. And that's what we're after here." 


Where Rivers Meet will be available online from 12 - 15 May at 7.30 pm each night. For further information and tickets log on here.


Maria Rud (photo by Douglas Robertson)

29 March 2021Award-winning pianist takes online jazz workshops during April

Pianist, educator and Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra director, Richard Michael BEM is leading online jazz sessions for St Andrews University during April.


Michael, who is an Honorary Professor in Jazz Piano at the university and has enjoyed success with his History of Jazz Piano concerts, will be giving workshops in learning a Blues, learning a Standard from the Great American Songbook and learning a contemporary modal tune. He will also take participants through a Miles Davis transcription showing how to learn from the masters.


The workshops will be over three sessions - 6th, 13th and 20th April - and will cost £5 per session for non-music centre members (music centre members attend at no charge). 


For more information click here



01 March 2021New recording captures Scottish jazz trio in its prime

Scottish guitarist Kevin Mackenzie releases the first recording with his latest group this Friday, March 5.


Prime Trio features Mackenzie with the former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, Peter Johnstone on organ and first-call drummer Doug Hough, and Mackenzie is excited by both the instrumentation and the personnel involved.


“The great thing for me about an organ trio is that it’s really a very compact unit and yet there are so many possibilities in terms of harmony. You can get a very full sound,” says Mackenzie, whose previous groups have included Trio AAB, with the Bancroft twins, Tom and Phil, the jazz-funk styled Swirler and the folk-jazz fusion ensemble Vital Signs.


Working in what has historically been a very popular format in jazz, with literally dozens of examples from the 1950s onwards, is both inspiring and slightly tricky, and Mackenzie concedes that finding a unique approach in a crowded market took some time.


“You think of all the guitar-organ-drums line-ups there have been and it can be daunting to follow people like Larry Goldings and Melvin Rhyne, who are two of my favourites,” says Mackenzie. “There are so many albums out there already but it’s not a question of trying to surpass the greats who have gone before because that’s impossible. It’s more about finding a sound, a style that reflects our own personalities individually and collectively and I think we’ve struck a balance between acknowledging our forebears and sounding like ourselves.”


The trio formed some three years ago and gigged around Scotland before the Covid pandemic brought live music to a halt. Mackenzie, who is a generation older than his two colleagues, met Johnstone in the late 2000s when the latter was a student on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland jazz course in Glasgow, where the guitarist teaches.


“We actually had a trio with one of Pete’s RCS contemporaries, John Lowrie, but other projects got in the way until I started to see Pete on Scottish National Jazz Orchestra gigs. We resurrected the trio idea and Doug was the obvious candidate to bring in on drums. It was one of these situations where everything just feels right.”


The trio recorded the five tracks on their debut EP in January last year and as the Covid hiatus dragged on Mackenzie decided to prepare the recording for release rather than have the group appearing to be completely inactive.


“We’re probably aiming for the festivals in 2022 in terms of live work,” he says. “But I thought we should have something ready to show people what we sound like. What I particularly like about this group is, it’s a cooperative. Pete and I both compose and everyone contributes arrangement ideas. The EP has two tunes each by Pete and myself plus a version of Invitation, a jazz standard by Branislaw Kaper, and the result, I think, is a good showcase of the trio. It was recorded in a studio but it’s very much what people will hear us doing on a gig. So we just have to hope that won’t be too long.”



Prime Trio (photo by Colin Black)


22 February 2021Young saxophonist channels his emotions on new video track

Young Glasgow-based saxophonist Matt Carmichael has released a second video single to trail his forthcoming debut album, Where Will the River Flow.


Twenty-one-year-old Carmichael, who reached the final of the televised BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 in November, recorded a live version of the album track Dear Grandma at the Pianodrome in Edinburgh, adding special guest, fiddler and former BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year, Charlie Stewart.


“I wrote the tune as a dedication to my Grandma after she passed away a few years ago,” says Carmichael, who is currently in his final year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. “Even though she isn’t here anymore, playing this tune at gigs gives me a special place to remember her and brings back memories.”


Where Will the River Flow is due out on March 12th and includes a number of tracks that Carmichael has written for people and places that have been important to him. As well as the tune he wrote for his grandmother, the area where he grew up on Speyside has inspired tracks such as Cononbridge, The Spey and Firth.


“I always find playing music more meaningful when you can channel aspects of life and real emotions into what comes out,” he says. “As a listener, it is the emotion and feeling in music, and it's power to enrich and bring colour to life experiences, that always draw me in the most.”


The video of Dear Grandma is free to view on YouTube and Where Will the River Flow is available to pre-order on Carmichael’s website.


Matt Carmichael (photo by Arms and Legs Studio)

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