Scotland’s Biggest Jazz And Blues Festival – What To See And Where To Go

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

Scotland’s biggest jazz festival returns to Edinburgh this July, bringing with it some of the biggest international stars, finest Scottish musicians and a programme that celebrates the centenary year of jazz.


Held over ten days, from 14-23 July, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (EJ&BF) features over 170 concerts taking place in locations across the capital from churches to parks, clubs and concert halls – with a special focus on the ‘birthplace of jazz’, New Orleans.


With the first jazz recording made there in 1917, it’s no surprise that there are 30 concerts taking place at this year’s festival featuring New Orleans, including the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band, a young and exuberant band packed with the best talent from New Orleans.


Mixing West-African funky seventies grooves with highlife guitar licks and deep synth electronica, Ibibio Sound Machine will also be in attendance on 14th July.

Ibibio Time Machine
Ibibio Time Machine play West Princes Street Gardens on 14 July.


The Jazz Centenary Gala Concert (19 July, Festival Theatre) also celebrates the genre and the early years of jazz with a host of musicians from New Orleans.


Aside from the New Orleans based acts, the festival will host concerts from some of the biggest international names in jazz, with guitar greats John Scofield and Mike Stern (14 July) both performing with all-star bands; Nashville singer-keyboardist (and TFA interviewee) Kandace Springs (15 and 16 July), who had a famous fan in the late, great Prince and has been deemed “the sound of Summer”.


Award-winning singer-pianist Sarah McKenzie (17 July) who draws constant comparisons to Diana Krall and has such a  distinct, unforgettable Australian accent will also be in attendance and the only UK date from the Blind Boys of Alabama (21 July), the iconic American group who have been singing and setting the standards for gospel music for seven decades.  


Although the festival is known for securing huge international names, it’s also respected for celebrating local talent and this year’s event is no exception. 


The annual Expo series, which uses funding from the Scottish Government to enable Scottish musicians to create new projects, will see Seonaid Aitken celebrating Ella Fitzgerald and Tommy Smith saluting John Coltrane, along with a host of other modern interpretations of the works of the jazz greats.


Edinburgh pianist, Brian Kellock is also in residency for the ten nights playing in a host of different projects which are close to his heart and with a series of guests including Lianne Caroll, Scott Robinson and Fionna Duncan.


The festival also welcomes an exciting new group of young Scottish jazz musicians, including singer Luca Manning, saxophonist Matt Carmichael, pianist Fergus McCreadie, fiddler Charlie Stewart and bassist David Bowden.


Also, the Edinburgh University Jazz Summer School is expanding to include a course for singers in addition to the regular course for instrumentalists. 


For those looking to explore the genre on a budget, the festival will host two free events on the streets of Edinburgh. The Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket (15 July), features a non-stop party atmosphere with young bands, Latin-swing, Norway’s hippest Dixieland band, cool and classy jazz divas, authentic traditional music, acid-jazz fusion and everything inbetween.  

Crowd at Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival takes place from 14 – 23 July


The Edinburgh Festival Carnival follows on 16 July and kicks off with the parade from The Mound to the West End of Princes Street at 2.30pm and features over 800 carnival performers from across the world, including the Edinburgh Samba School, Enjoy Street Theatre (Italy), Beltane Society, 3 Points (Spain), Edinburgh Chinese Community Festival Group, D’Art (Netherlands), Edinburgh Chinese Art and Culture Community and many more.  


However, it’s not just the Jazz section that covers different nationalities and boundaries. The EJ&BF has a wide blues programme featuring Southern blues, delta blues, Mississippi blues, Chicago blues, electric blues and acoustic blues performed by American stars and homegrown talent.  


International blues musicians include Lisa Mills, Hamilton Loomis, Mr Sipp, Brandon Santini, Earl Thomas, and John Nemeth, Grainne Duffy, Matt Schofield and Connie Lush.


The Scottish blue’s scene is represented by The Jensen Interceptors, Gerry Jablonski, Dana Dixon, Charlotte Marshall, Main Street Blues and Neil Warden, and the festival marks the end of the legendary Edinburgh Blues band Blues N Trouble with a tribute gig put together by front man Tim Elliott.  


With such a varied programme, affordable events and non-stop entertainment, there’s really no excuse to miss the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Check out the full programme online at:

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