21 November 2022Scottish bassist Ewan Hastie wins BBC Young Jazz Musician 2022

Twenty-year old Scottish double bassist Ewan Hastie has won BBC Young Jazz Musician 2022.


Born in Edinburgh, and raised in Kirkcaldy, Ewan started playing the bass guitar at the age of 12, and during his time with the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra he took up the double bass. With the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, he gained touring experience, visiting Skye, Glasgow, Belfast, and Sligo Jazz Festival. He s currently in his final year on the jazz course at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow, where he received the Mark McKergow Prize for Jazz Improvisation and was selected to go to Nuremberg, Germany, for a European Jazz workshop.


Ewan impressed the judging panel which comprised saxophonist and composer Camilla George; pianist, composer and producer Bill Laurance of Snarky Puppy; vocalist Claire Martin, OBE; multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer Emma-Jean Thackray; and composer, singer and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. His eclectic performance featured his own composition Impulse, and arrangements of Tricotism by bebop trailblazer Oscar Pettiford, and Chick Corea’s Humpty Dumpty – from 1978 concept album The Mad Hatter.


For the final all of the musicians had the chance to work with and were backed by Nikki Yeoh’s Infinitum. Led by British jazz composer and pianist Nikki Yeoh, the trio also features siblings Michael Mondesir (bass) and Mark Mondesir (drums).


Ewan said: “The other finalists were fantastic and I really did not expect to win. I am overwhelmed with emotions. I am just so grateful to be part of the show and to be able to bring the trophy home to Scotland.”


Ewan Hastie (publicity photo)

17 November 2022Celtic Connections' thirtieth edition fills Glasgow with music

Glasgow’s internationally revered winter music festival, Celtic Connections returns for its thirtieth edition in venues across the city from Thursday 19th January to Sunday 5th February 2023. 


After two years when, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the music was first moved to digital performances and then to a hybrid of live and online events, the festival is back with a fully in-person programme.


Donald Shaw, Celtic Connections’ creative producer, acknowledges that there remains an element of uncertainty in promoting live concerts in the current economic climate.


“These are tough times for everyone,” he says, “and we just have to remember that the arts are not just about playing music. They’re also about creating a sense of well-being and if people remember the great feeling they get from experiencing live music, hopefully they’ll be inspired to come out to the festival.”


The 2023 programme is certainly designed to attract audiences away from the comfort of their homes. It begins and ends with concerts that define the Celtic Connections approach, with a massive opening concert that features seasoned artists who have lit up the Celtic Connections stage since the festival’s early days and younger musicians who have emerged over its history. The closing Transatlantic Sessions is similarly big in scale with an equally star-studded line-up.


Singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, bluegrass singer-mandolinist-guitarist Sierra Hull, Scandinavian roots band Basco, Hebridean sensations Peat & Diesel, Glasgow pan-Celtic stylists TRIP, New York-based Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist and jazz piano-saxophone duo Fergus McCreadie & Matt Carmichael underline Celtic Connections’ cultural diversity in the Opening Concert. They’ll be supported by the bespoke big band that was formed for 2021’s digital-first Opening Night and joined by surprise guests.


Transatlantic Sessions, which runs on Friday 3rd February, as well as on the final night, this year welcomes Martha Wainwright and Tennessean Amythyst Kiah alongside Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlai and Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, accompanied by a customary slick house band.


In between these nights there are world premieres, including Moving Cloud. A collaboration of contemporary dance and traditional music created by Celtic Connections and Scottish Dance Theatre, this features a new score performed by a 14-piece folk ensemble including violinist Greg Lawson of the Grit Orchestra.


Celtic Odyssée sees a virtuosic Breton band joined by musicians and singers from Asturias, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Scotland. And among the festival debutants are the Irish Chamber Orchestra who will feature with the outstanding singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh in a programme of classic sean nós.


Leading Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm premieres his new album, Black Cuillin, with a seven-piece band, string section and guests, and adventurous fiddle and harp duo Chris Stout & Catriona McKay join the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a cutting-edge marriage of the folk and classical traditions.


The festival’s connections with Africa will be celebrated in a meeting of Malian and Gaelic music featuring Mali’s Trio Da Kali with award-winning Gaelic singers Jenna Cummings and Kim Carnie, piper-composer Ross Ainslie, and American Old-Time and roots musician Dirk Powell. Further Malian representatives include singer Rokia Koné, from Les Amazones D’Afrique, and the very popular Amadou and Mariam while North Africa will be represented by Moroccan-French folk-rockers Bab L’Bluz with their dynamic frontwoman, Yousra Mansour.


Scotland’s kinship with Scandinavia sees Nordic virtuosi Dreamers' Circus and Finnish nordgrass innovators, Frigg joining powerful Scots string band Kinnaris Quintet in presenting a progressive take on their respective traditions in Celtic Runes.


Americana will once again feature prominently. In addition to appearing on the Opening Night, Sierra Hull shares a concert with Nashville-based singer-songwriter, and one-half of fiddle duo 10 String Symphony, Rachel Baiman. Singer, composer and traditional ballad enthusiast Anaïs Mitchell brings her group Bonny Light Horseman. Singer-songwriters Lucinda Williams, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Aoife O’Donovan return to Glasgow and making their first appearance in the city in many years, the former bluegrass wunderkinds Nickel Creek, in which mandolin marvel Chris Thile and singer-fiddler Sara Watkins launched their careers, play a rare Scottish concert.


Homegrown talent, as always, plays a major role in the festival. Launching a new album, singer Gillebride MacMillan, from Uist, is among a strong Gaelic cast, which also features the esteemed siblings Seumas and Kenna Campbell, of the Skye tradition-bearing family the Campbells of Greepe, leading a group of younger Gaelic singers in showcasing the invaluable work of song collector Frances Tolmie. Highland band Breabach present music from their latest album, Fàs, and singer Rachel Walker and bouzouki player Aaron Jones perform their new album, Despite the Wind & Rain.


Acclaimed young bands Ímar, Talisk and Gnoss, non-binary musical force Hen Hoose and folk-rock quintet Matthew & the Atlas are also among those who, for Donald Shaw, represent some of the best music Scotland and the world has to offer. “I can’t wait,” he says, ”to revel in a live festival once again.” 


From Songlines, December 2022


10 November 2022Nominees announced for Scottish Jazz Awards

The nominees for the 10th edition of the Scottish Jazz Awards have been announced. Voting is open to the public online here from noon on Thursday 10 November until 5pm, Friday 25 November.


A shortlist has been chosen by a panel of industry specialists, including media, press and promoters from across the UK and it is now up to the public to decide the winners in the five categories.


The full list of nominees is:


Rising Star Award sponsored by Musicians’ Union

Cara Rose

Conor Smith

Ewan Hastie

Laurie Moore

Norman Willmore


Best Instrumentalist Award sponsored by ESP Music Rentals 

Helena Kay

Matt Carmichael

Max Popp

Paul Harrison

Stephen Henderson


Best Vocalist Award sponsored by Whighams Jazz Club

Georgia Cecile


Louise Dodds

Rachel Lightbody

Seonaid Aitken


Best Band Award sponsored by Inhouse Event Productions


Fergus McCreadie Trio

Matt Carmichael Quintet

Nimbus Sextet

Tenement Jazz Band


Best Album Award sponsored by Birnam CD 

Chasing Sakura - Seonaid Aitken

Forest Floor - Fergus McCreadie Trio

Forward Thinker - Nimbus Sextet

Modern Traditions - Brian Molley Quartet

Where Rivers Meet - Scottish National Jazz Orchestra


The awards ceremony will take place at the Savings Bank in Glasgow on Thursday 8th December.

The Scottish Jazz Awards are produced as an independent event by the organisers of Glasgow Jazz Festival and supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.



25 October 2022SNJO trumpeter Sean Gibbs releases new big band album

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra trumpeter Sean Gibbs releases his biggest project to date, Confluence on Friday 25th November.


Featuring a seventeen-piece band including fellow SNJO players, bassist Calum Gourlay, saxophonist Helena Kay and trombonist Kieran McLeod, the album reflects different aspects of Gibbs’ personal life and a music career that has included work with the rocking brass band Young Pilgrims and folk singer Eliza Carthy.


“I wrote with the specific players in mind, and it was incredibly rewarding to hear what they brought to my compositions,” says Gibbs. “I wanted to stay true to the fundamentals that resonate with me - lyrical melodies, hearty grooves and a deep connection to the blues.”


The album is released on the Ubuntu label and follows Gibbs’ quintet album, When Can I See You Again and his previous big band album, Burns, which was inspired by the poetry of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.


Sean Gibbs (photo by Colin Black)


18 October 2022Scottish drummer is behind major New Zealand jazz release

Drummer John Rae, a former leading light on the Scottish jazz scene, is the force behind New Zealand’s most keenly awaited new jazz album this autumn.


Questions in Red is the latest recording by saxophonist Oscar Lavën, one of New Zealand’s most widely respected musicians, and Rae is both the drummer on the album and the owner of the record company, Wellington-based Thick Records NZ, behind its release.


“Oscar is an incredibly prolific and versatile musician,” says Rae, who is originally from Edinburgh. “He is as adept on trumpet, bassoon and clarinet as he is on the saxophone and he has played in just about every style of jazz there is, as well as working in chamber music, blues, pop and whatever other genre of music needs a great reeds specialist.”


Rae led bands in Scotland including the award-winning Celtic Feet and the John Rae Collective, as well as playing in the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and pianist Brian Kellock’s trio, before emigrating to Wellington in 2008. He made his own recording debut at the age of sixteen, with his contemporary, saxophonist Tommy Smith in 1982, and has since appeared on more than seventy albums.


“It’s still a thrill to go into a studio, see the red light go on and know you have to deliver,” he says. “There’s been a buzz about Oscar’s album since before it was recorded because everyone on the scene knows him and he’s at an exciting stage of his career where he’s reached a high level and is ready for international recognition.


Rae and the band were conscious that they had expectations to meet.


“I think we met them,” he says. “I’m really proud to be involved with the album as a participant and from the label point of view.”


New Zealand has a history of producing jazz musicians who have gone on to success across the world. The pianists Mike Nock, Alan Broadbent and Dave McRae all went to the U.S. in the 1960s and worked in New York and elsewhere with musicians including Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Sheila Jordan and John Handy. More recently, saxophonists Jasmine Lovell-Smith, Lucien Johnson and Jake Baxendale, who have all enjoyed acclaim in Europe with their latest albums, have followed suit.


“It’s something New Zealanders do – the OE, or the overseas experience,” says Rae. “You find musicians who have studied in America, like Jasmine, or spent their twenties in Paris or Berlin, like Lucien and Jake, and have returned home to give the next generation the benefit of what they’ve learned. Oscar has done that to some extent and we’re hoping that Questions in Red, which is released on 22nd October, will really help to establish him with the wider jazz audience.”


John Rae

30 September 2022Free jazz pioneer Albert Ayler is the subject of a new book

Jawbone Press will publish Holy Ghost, The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler, by Richard Koloda on November 15.

Described as “The first extended study of Albert Ayler, one of the most important innovators in the history of jazz,” Koloda’s book draws on archive material and fresh oral history and is the product of over twenty years of research.


Ayler, who died in mysterious circumstances at the age of thirty-four on November 25, 1970, synthesized children’s songs, American march music, and gospel hymns, turning them into powerful, rambunctious, squalling free-jazz improvisations. Some critics considered him a charlatan, others a heretic for unhinging jazz traditions.


However, Koloda, a musicologist and friend of Ayler’s trumpet-playing brother, Donald, argues that Ayler was misunderstood in his time and points out that Ayler’s apocalyptic visions of flying saucers, and the strange account of the days leading up to his being found floating in New York’s East River are a distraction.


His book follows Ayler from his beginnings in Cleveland to France, where he received his greatest acclaim, to the untimely death of one of the most visible avant-garde players of the 1960s and a major influence on others, including John Coltrane, at whose funeral Ayler was invited to play.


Koloda has a master’s degree in Musicology from Cleveland State University, having written a thesis on the piano music of Frederic Rzewski. He was a contributor to the critically acclaimed documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler by Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin and a consultant on Revenant Records’ ten-CD retrospective of Ayler, Holy Ghost: Rare and Unissued Recordings (1962–70), which has been called ‘the Sistine Chapel of box sets.’ Richard lives in Wayland, Ohio, where he practices law. When he is not in court, he is working on his second book (not about music).

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