Beginning in February, Scotland’s year of jazzy festivities kick off with the Fife Jazz Festival. Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy put on a number of vibrant concerts over a three day blitz of revitalising melodies. Encompassing thumping blue-rocks, melancholic R&B and sweeping jazz orchestras, the event attracts a wide range of artists. The Home of Golf takes part, too, with several performances taking place in St Andrews.
In March, the Granite City is flooded with jazz fusion, as the Aberdeen Jazz Festival rolls into town. Past performers have included Soulatino, Leppard & the Big Cats and Scott Cruikshank, while the eclectic array of events means there’s always a style to suit all jazz tastes. With heavy focus on a youthful sound, Aberdeen could almost pass for New Orleans when the festival is in full swing.
A Scottish island in the Firth of Clyde might be the last place you’d envisage hosting a jazz extravaganza, but the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival always goes down a storm when it surfaces every May. The event has blossomed since its formation in 1988, when it started with just six bands. Since then it has expanded considerably, featuring the likes of Monty Sunshine and Marty Taylor. Visitors can expect to hear a fresh sound, as the festival has long been a supporter of young musicians.
Glasgow Jazz Festival
July heralds perhaps the most engaging, eclectic event in Scotland’s musical calendar in the Glasgow Jazz Festival. Established in 1987, it’s been showcasing the best homegrown talent alongside legendary international acts for over two decades. The incomparable Prince of Darkness Miles Davis played the festival in 1990 and ever since it has embraced an inclusive spirit covering blues, reggae, funk and soul. And with the annual Late Night Sessions, visitors can expect jamming to go into the wee small hours.
Auld Reekie also hosts one of the UK’s most prestigious music events in the summer months, when the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival hits the capital in July. Started by banjo-player Mike Hart in 1978, Scotland’s premier jazz celebration spans both swing and mainstream blues. From recreating the spirit of the Big Easy with Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket or listening to the official festival orchestra at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh is gripped by jazz fever for two weeks every summer.
With its self-proclaimed mission to ‘jazz up the Trossachs’, the Callander Jazz and Blues Festival confidently trumpets its emotive, full-bodied music among the autumnal leaves every September. Mixing a blend of talented Scottish performers - such as regular attendees Jazz Maine - and overseas acts, Callander’s festival will delight your ears with its easygoing ambience.
That same month the Lockerbie Jazz Festival rounds off proceedings feeling anything but the blues. Though only seven years old, it’s already one of the UK’s liveliest jazz hubs, thanks to its varied performances. With a range of contemporary acts such as previous visitors Bright Noise or Houston Preston’s more traditional mesmerising melodies, the stunning Lowlands settings are an added bonus.
Regardless of whether you enjoy the stirring saxophone of avant-garde jazz or the experimental beats of jazz fusion, Scotland is the perfect place to experience this constantly evolving musical form.