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Welcome back: A triumphant return to live shows for the acclaimed Aberdeen Jazz Festival

The Granite City will be alive with the sound of music for the next 10 days as the acclaimed Aberdeen Jazz Festival returns with live shows.

At the height of the lockdown in March this year the festival adapted to the closure of music venues by going online to great success.

However nothing beats the thrill and emotional connection of musicians and audience, and the Aberdeen Jazz Festival returns with 18 concerts across the city from tonight until Sunday October 10.

The festival will welcome world-renowned musicians and the hottest Scottish talent as well as local musicians.

Shows will be performed at various venues including The Blue Lamp, The Lemon Tree, Queen’s Cross Church, Revolution de Cuba, Spin and even Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Boasting an exciting and eclectic programme from trad to bebop, big band, funk-soul crossover and free jazz there is something for everyone.

Norwegian Jazz musician Esper Eriksen performing at The Blue Lamp. Supplied by Colin Black.

Keith MacRae, Chair of Jazz Scotland who promote the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, is delighted to finally have audiences back after 18 months.

He said: “We put on a virtual festival in March which was good as it let people know the Aberdeen Jazz Festival is still here with things going on.

“However there is no substitute for live music with an audience.

“Although the musicians and fans really appreciated the streamed shows there is only so much mileage in that before the desire for live music takes over completely.

“We are mindful of the fact that we still have Covid hanging over us so that is very much on our agenda in terms of planning.

“The relaxation of restrictions came at the right time for us to schedule a live festival.

“We are all delighted that is the case.”

Jazz at The Blue Lamp
Jazz musician Colin Steele performing at The Blue Lamp. Supplied by Colin Black.

‘We did wonder what would the future hold’

The Aberdeen Jazz Festival last featured live shows in front of audiences in March 2020 just days before the nation was plunged into the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

During the lockdown, the city’s jazz scene lost two legends with the sad passing of The Blue Lamp owner Sandy Brown and renowned drummer Bill Kemp.

Sandy’s grandson Lewis has taken over the influential Gallowgate venue which will be at the heart of this year’s festival and will host a tribute night, We Love You Bill Kemp.

The Blue Lamp owner Lewis Brown and Paddy Buchanan (right) at the popular Gallowgate venue.

Keith said: “We started the jazz festival as planned last year and although the lockdown didn’t come until the following week things were closing in.

“The last gigs of that festival were an American Blues Band at the Lemon Tree and The Jazz at the Blue Lamp Community Big Band at The Blue Lamp.

“There was definitely something in the air that night and as we left The Blue Lamp we did wonder what the future would hold.

“Sadly we lost Sandy soon after that.”

Virtual passes also available for festival

An innovation for the festival, borne of the need to stream shows during the lockdown, is virtual passes.

Aberdeen Jazz Festival’s video team will record concerts at the Blue Lamp and Queen’s Cross Church and they will be made available to watch in their entirety for a single ticket price of £25.

Keith MacRae is delighted to have audiences back. Picture by Wullie

The shows will be available to stream from October 15 (2pm) until October 22 (midnight) and can be watched as many times as you want.

Keith said: “There will be 10 shows streamed so people who cannot go or are still reluctant to go out in more populated places will still be able to experience the festival.

“We have already had folk from far away from Aberdeen who cannot make it but are delighted they will still be able to see top-class jazz via the streams.

“It is a good balance between the streamed stuff and what our festival has been over the years which is a great variety of live music.

“We all realise that the digital age is on us.

“Even before the pandemic there was a move towards more stuff being streamed.

“Albeit for the worst possible reasons we were able to develop the streaming programme and find out what works and what doesn’t.

“An online component is here to stay but make no mistake we are all about having live music and audiences enjoying it.”

Back with a bang – Espen Eriksen trio

The festival begins tonight with acclaimed Espen Eriksen Trio at The Blue Lamp in a concert which is a major coup for the festival.

Formed in 2007 and consisting  Espen Eriksen (piano), Lars Tormod Jenset (double bass) and Andreas Bye (drums) the Norwegian trio released their fifth album End of Summer last year, recorded during lockdown.

Keith said: “We had a great audience for his concert in 2019 and he is very much in the vogue of modern Nordic piano trios.

“It is very evocative music with three great players and it is a concert we are all very much looking forward to.”

‘We Love You Bill’ – tribute to a legend

Another highlight of the festival is the ‘We Love You Bill’ tribute at The Blue Lamp on Friday October 1.

The tribute will include leading North East jazz musicians Bill worked with over the years, young musicians he helped nurture and national jazz stars who loved his music including trumpeter Colin Steele and drummer Alyn Cosker.

Keith said: “Everyone was very saddened when Bill passed away as he had been such a force and figure in Aberdeen music, particularly jazz.

“That will be a poignant but great night with some stars of the Scottish scene and really good local musicians.”

Stunning array of talents to perform

Performing at the festival is pianist Fergus McCreadie, one of the hottest young stars of British jazz, who will play with singer Irini Arabatzi at The Blue Lamp on Saturday October 9.

Matthew Kilner playing saxophone
Local saxophonist Matthew Kilner. Picture by Wullie Marr

Also on Saturday October 9 there will be a special celebration of Big Band Masters such as Horace Silver, Arturo Sandoval and Charlie Mingus with Aberdeen Jazz Orchestra and Alyn Cosker at Queen’s Cross Church.

Another gig not to be missed at The Blue Lamp on Saturday October 2 is a new double tenor saxophone-led band featuring two of Scotland’s hottest young musicians, Aberdeen’s Matthew Kilner and Matt Carmichael.

The Colin Steele Quintet will play a set full of original compositions at The Blue Lamp on Thursday October 7.

There will also be a first public performance by Seonaid Aitken Chasing Sakura at the Blue Lamp on Saturday October 2.

Keith said: “I am really looking forward to the Seonaid Aitken performance.

“It is a string quintet with sax as well. It will be really interesting and the kind of thing you want to put into the mix to make things different.

“Seonaid is a fantastic musician in any setting she chooses.”

For more information and tickets go to

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