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Hamish picks up the pieces at Aberdeen Jazz Festival

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Hamish Stuart has a sneaking suspicion that his links to Aberdeen might be closer than listed on his birth certificate.

After all, the former singer-songwriter with the multimillion-selling Average White Band (AWB) always feels a sense of coming home when he returns to the Granite City.

As he said: “My parents, from Glasgow, spent their honeymoon in Aberdeen, and I came into the world not that long afterwards. So I always wonder if I was conceived there as well. It is an intriguing thought.”

The 68-year-old Scot with a CV that reads like a veritable Who’s Who of music, whether in his chart-topping recordings with AWB or subsequent forays with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, shows no signs of slowing down in his seventh decade.

On the contrary, he is relishing the prospect of taking a starring role at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, when he performs at The Lemon Tree with his former confrere Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, tomorrow, Friday, March 9.

Hamish has recently been working on the production of a new CD with rising stars James Brown is Annie, and he was in ebullient mood when we hooked up.

He added: “I am really looking forward to being back in the north-east, because we always have a blast up there, and you can rely on the audiences to give us a warm welcome.

“I was thinking about it the other night and it’s all of 19 years since I last appeared at The Lemon Tree. Sometimes, you wonder where the time all goes.

“The Aberdeen Jazz Festival is one of those events which keeps growing and getting more popular and it is terrific to see so many different festivals succeeding all across Scotland at the moment.

“As to what we’ll be playing, well I have recently worked with Molly on some new songs and we recorded an album with [drummer] Steve Ferrone a couple of years ago.

“But obviously, people want to hear the classic songs as well and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, one of the great things is that we have found a new generation is tuning into the AWB songs from the 1970s and 1980s.

“We were always bigger in the United States than we were at home, but it is pretty impressive how these songs have stood the test of time.

“A song like Pick Up the Pieces – which is more than 40 years old – still crops up in the most surprising places. You’ll go to a supermarket and it will be playing.

“Or you will suddenly hear it on a movie soundtrack or a TV programme, whether it is Starsky and Hutch, Iron Man or The Simpsons.

“That’s not bad for an instrumental which bamboozled many listeners when it first came out. They thought we were some American soul band. Then they discovered we were a bunch of hairy Scotsmen!”

Hamish has recently turned his hand to singing everything from Leonard Bernstein to Steely Dan.

Last year, he was involved in a 40th anniversary tribute to the latter’s classic Aja album, and recorded a much-acclaimed version of Black Cow with the Reuben Fowler Big Band.

The musicians were young enough to be his sons, but it didn’t faze any of them. As Hamish said: “It is not about how old you are, or whether you are more experienced than somebody else.

“In a band setting, it’s about the lot of you working together to be the best you can be. Age doesn’t come into it and never has done wherever I have travelled in my career. That is one of the great things about music.”

There might be a few jazz purists who query a funk maestro’s inclusion among the artists at the Aberdeen event, but Hamish has always poured his heart and soul into everything he has done. In a live setting, he positively glows.

As he said: “No two gigs are ever the same, or they shouldn’t be. If it starts feeling stale, perhaps you should take a break for a while and recharge the batteries.

“But if you are passionate about music and enjoy working with others, whether in the spotlight or as part of the band, it’s a privilege and a pleasure to go out in front of a crowd.

“I love touring and it is a fantastic way of getting your music out there, because so much stuff flies under the radar these days, especially if it’s not mainstream.

“Back in the old days, a band bringing out a new album was a major event, but now you have people downloading songs and streaming what they want to listen to. It has changed a lot of things.

“Thankfully, it hasn’t stopped groups from organising gigs and going to places where they can put on a show for their fans. That is still one of my favourite things: connecting with the audience and cranking it up.”

He and his colleagues recently performed in Edinburgh and gained a rapturous reception from those in the audience, many of whom were around in the days when the AWB originally prospered.

Yet, as he added: “There were young lads coming up to us and telling us ‘What a great show’ and that was good to hear. You can’t stand still in this business and we wouldn’t have any interest in doing that.

“But when everything comes together and you hear people being really enthusiastic about the new material, it gives you a real buzz.”

Further information about the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, which runs from today until March 18, can be found at