Shetland Jazz Festival: something for everyone

It has been a long time in the formulating – from a clear vision of a comprehensive jazz festival to an absolute reality taking place over this weekend.

There have been many ups and downs, many disappointments for the festival co-ordinating committee and many highs as well. The greatest of these came with the news that Creative Scotland had responded to our vision and granted a major financial award that has helped make the festival happen. Further funding from the SIC economic development unit and from Shetland Arts Trust have allowed us to put on a programme of jazz that should make Shetland proud.

The highlight of the weekend will no doubt be the concert to be given by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra at Clickimin on Saturday evening. Under their illustrious leader saxophonist Tommy Smith the concert will feature music by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Miles Davis and by Smith himself. This will be a tasty helping of excellent big band sounds to savour.

But to top off this concert is a guest appearance by the jazz legend Bobby Wellins, one of the greatest of British jazz stars, performing with the SNJO his own composition The Culloden Moor Suite. Full of all the passion of the place and the terrible battle that took place there, this will be a truly memorable and very rare opportunity to hear something of such substance and significance. It’s the jewel in our crown.

Following the SNJO concert there will be a special late night performance by the experimental jazz group NeWt, who have been living at Saxa Vord in Unst for the whole week and preparing a special piece of music based on their experiences in that environment. This was not part of our original plans but was arranged by NeWt themselves and specially funded by Creative Scotland. However, we are proud to host the culminating product of their musical explorations, which will be recorded for a later CD release.

At Busta Hotel on Saturday afternoon is a Jazz Garden Party featuring the very special new torch songs of Becc Sanderson and the classic jazz of the Nova Scotia Jazz Band. There will also be a featured local band when Norman Goudie and Friends play on what should be an excellent jazz summer’s day.

If you can’t get up to Busta there is a showing of one of the best films ever made about jazz music, Jazz On A Summer’s Day, at the Garrison Theatre on Saturday morning, featuring a plethora of jazz talents.

There is also a new film about legendary Scottish jazz legend Annie Ross that was recently shown at Glasgow Film Festival. Thanks to the generosity of Shetland Film Club these films are now being shown for free.

There will also be a Sunday lunchtime jazz session at Tingwall Hall, featuring an array of local jazz talent alongside the Bespoke Quartet – four members of the SNJO, Tom MacNiven on trumpet, Steve Hamilton on piano, Calum Gourlay on bass and Alyn Cosker on drums. This is a great way to spend a relaxing Sunday lunchtime and enjoy some really great music close up. There are licensed bars at all these events.

The Olympic Suite at the Garrison on Sunday brings to a suitable conclusion the wonderful day when the Olympic torch came to Shetland. Maggie Adamson is one of the featured torch carriers and will also play in the Olympic Suite alongside Brian Nicholson, Gilad Atzmon and Chris Stout, not to forget local sensations Troppo Funk and Aestaewast.

There is a concert of improvised music on Saturday afternoon, some based on Shetland themes, played by the newly formed Shetland Improvisers Orchestra. This will also be recorded for CD release. There is a Saturday afternoon Jazz Circus featuring dancers from Shetland Community Ballet, Singing Saturdays and Shetland Gymnasts. There is, indeed, something for everyone.

The whole thing opens on Friday night with a Gala Jazz Concert at Lerwick Town Hall featuring the classic jazz of Nova Scotia Jazz Band, with the sweetest cornet sound you ever heard from Mike Daly and fullsome playing from the three other guys, as well as the electrifying playing of Brass Jaw, three saxes and the trumpet of Ryan Quigley playing some of the most exciting jazz you will hear in a long time. You can hear a taster of these two groups at the Market Cross around 6pm.

Full details of all of these events and how to book will be found at

At the gala event, the honorary president of Shetland Jazz Club, Norman Willmore, will start the whole thing off, together with his fellow player Max Tyler. And then the first Shetland Jazz Festival will be well and truly under way. Good luck and best wishes to all who sail with her.

Jeff Merrifield


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