The Aberdeen jazz festival gets underway later and on the programme of a busy festival today there’s US jazz-rock fusion heavyweights Yellowjackets, and the Henry Threadgill-inspired improv of the acclaimed Trio Red. Tomorrow (Wednesday 13 March) features a young musicians’ showcase, with the Hot 8 Brass Band already sold out, and Brian Kellock playing the music of Fats Waller. Thursday finds Trio Elf feat. guitarist Graeme Stephen at the Blue Lamp, and also for Aberdeen this week is bluesman Mud Morganfield. Friday features concerts by Ruby Turner, and Courtney Pine, with an appearance by Hidden Orchestra on Saturday and the festival moves to a climax with Trio Libero (above) featuring the ‘King of Aberdeen’ himself Seb Rochford, with Andy Sheppard and Michel Benita, making their Scottish debut on Sunday. More at

On the horizon

Derry jazz and big band festival 2-6 May

Glasgow jazz festival 26 June-30 June

Edinburgh jazz and blues festival 19-28 July

Marlborough jazz festival 19-21 July

Hull jazz festival
26-28 July and 21-27 November

and from Marlbank yesterday:

Jazz festival 10


Brilliant Corners 21-23 March
With Liane Carroll, David Lyttle, Mark Lockheart’s Ellington In Anticipation, Steve Davis, and Alexander Hawkins to perform at this new festival inspired by a classic Monk album.

Gateshead jazz festival 5-7 April
Centred at the Sage, Soweto Kinch, Lighthouse, Christine Tobin, Ruby Turner and Louis Moholo-Moholo/Alexander Hawkins are Tyneside bound this year.

Cheltenham jazz festival 1-6 May
Dionne Warwick, Van Morrison, Laura Mvula, Polar Bear, Gary Burton, Dave Douglas, and Mike Gibbs are set to appear in the lively old regency spa town.

Love Supreme, 5-7 July
New outdoor festival in Sussex, Bryan Ferry, Chic, Gregory Porter, Michael Kiwanuka, Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Robert Glasper, Neil Cowley Trio and Portico Quartet feature. (Porter, Pine and Portico, above)

Swanage jazz festival 12-14 July
Dorset bound are Kit Downes Quintet, Jean Toussaint, Gilad Atzmon, and Karen Street at the long established jazz gathering.

Manchester jazz festival 26 July-3 August
One of the most innovative jazz festivals in the country, with a strong regional and artistic identity. Worth waiting for the line-up to be announced in the spring.

Brecon jazz festival 9-11 August
Acker Bilk, Courtney Pine, Gilad Atzmon, Roller Trio, John Surman and more in the Powys market town for the biggest jazz gathering in Wales, now reborn.

Scarborough jazz festival 27-29 September
Kicking the sands from their shoes in Yorkshire are Courtney Pine, Kyle Eastwood, Ian Shaw, Beats & Pieces and more this year.

Cork jazz festival 25-29 Oct
Line-up should be available in September.

London jazz festival 15-24 November
The biggest of the UK jazz festivals, celebrating its 21st year in 2013. MB


Some singers are known only by their first name. It’s all that’s needed.

With Eska Mtungwazi, universally known as Eska, there’s no mistaking the musicianship and supreme vocal talent at play.

An improviser first and foremost, with an ear for a melody that vaults genres and continents, new EP Gatekeeper, to be followed by a milestone album English Skies, are expected later this year.

But before that, at a major solo headlining show the singer is to present, appearing at the Albany theatre in London previewing new songs some of which will appear on English Skies, an album that promises to be one of the most talked about UK jazz vocal events of the year.

Brought up in Lewisham, the Zimbabwe-born singer has a voice that communicates instantly no matter the style, and features a technique that’s unsurpassable in terms of range, emotion and skill, with Eska at home in an a cappella situation, part of a vocal grouping, or even improvising against a saxophone or raw bass line. Eska’s talents have also seen her work with acclaimed indie bands including The Invisible; and she has appeared with vocal great Bobby McFerrin, as well as maverick jazz composer and big band leader Matthew Herbert.

Now an associate artist at the Albany in Deptford, where Soweto Kinch previewed The Legend of Mike Smith last year, and clarinettist Arun Ghosh has performed multi-media experimental productions in the past, the Saturday 23 March show is a first-name-only affair, and a chance above all to glimpse a singer on the cusp of great things. MB
Stephen Graham

ESKA, top



Jazz record labels make things happen, and although notions of what a record company are there to do vary enormously nowadays, they still count.

In recent years the tide has changed with the digital revolution and artist empowerment, and even since the last survey here in November, a bunch of important new labels, or reactivated ones, are making a real difference in pushing the music forward, connecting with fans and building the sector.

Digital-only releases, for instance, the latest Andrew McCormack trio album through Edition, are becoming more commonplace, but remain the exception to the rule. The vinyl-only label Gearbox, though, has begun to make its unique presence felt. What goes around…

…comes around, and watch out for the return of Verve records in the UK, with new A&R in the late-spring, a year after the UK office was closed down. It comes at a time when Blue Note and Verve will come under the same roof for the first time, “great ships coming in to dock", as the label chief at Universal has put it. 

Label activity

Prog-jazz inclined, artists include Redivider, ZoiD, and Thought-Fox.

Sax force-of-nature Tommy Smith’s label, back with a bang and In The Spirit of Duke

Alex Wilson records
A burgeoning label catalogue topped by a fine new trio release from the leading latin-jazz pianist of his generation

Lyte records
Drummer David Lyttle’s forward thinking label. Artists include teenage jazz guitar sensation Andreas Varady

House of Legends was a big hit for Courtney Pine’s label in 2012 topping the Jazzwise Album of the Year critics’ poll

Martin Speake’s label, Polar Bear-meets-Ellington at last!

Part of Sony Classical: Bill Frisell, Dhafer Youssef, John Medeski, and Michel Camilo are on the roster. No website yet.

There is a UK placeholder website for the famed record company founded by Norman Granz. But there are few details so far, and the Universal-owned label won’t comment on the new signings. Check back for the first news when the publicity button is finally pressed. Last year before the label closed vocals starlet Natalie Duncan, among others, was signed.

Vinyl-only, artists include hard bop purist Simon Spillett, and the great Kenny Wheeler.       MB

Report: Stephen Graham

 Diatribe artist ZoiD, top