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Zoe Gilby will appear at the 2015 Scarborough Jazz Festival

Adrian Riley, host of Radio Scarborough's 'Jazz Thing' programme - a mixtape style show playing a wide range of jazz & related music - shares his personal highlights of the forthcoming festival.

 

Festivals are great opportunity to discover new music and so over the last couple of months I've been dropping tracks into my radio show from musicians who are performing at this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival, many of whom are new to me.

It was big bands that first excited me about jazz - few musical experiences can match the excitement of a large horn section at full tilt - so I'm particularly looking forward to hearing Beats & Pieces Big Band who close the festival on Sunday evening. To my ears they have that irresistible mix of freedom and groove that made such as Sun Ra's Arkestra so exciting. You're unlikely to be allowed to wander amongst the band onstage this weekend so check out this 'GoPro' fest at Ronnie Scotts.

My taste in jazz often runs to where improvised music and other styles crossover. Pushing the boundaries of the genre are Engines Orchestra, a group of twenty-six young London-based orchestral musicians who mix composed and improvised music. If you ever find yourself popping on a movie soundtrack album (I often slip music from movies into 'Jazz thing') then this might just be your thing. I believe this outfit was considered a bit of a risk when the festival booked them, since then they've been awarded 'Jazz Ensemble of the Year' in the 2015 Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and that's after just one year of performing together. Their album 'Lifecycles' is available to listen online here.

I confess I've never listened to jazz vocalists much, sure there's room for a bit of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra in everyone's life, but I'd usually choose instrumental albums first. However, I so enjoyed some of the vocal sets at last year's festival that I've been keeping a more open ear to singers this year, starting with some records I already own such as Oscar Brown Jnr, and discovering names new to me such as Mark Murphy. Earlier in the year I had opportunity to interview Zoe Gilby who is playing this year's festival on Saturday afternoon and was intrigued not just by her choice of left-of-centre covers (Kate Bush & Pink Floyd) but also her own writing with the group. Check out the Newcastle-girl-goes-to-London snapshots of 'Red Headed Girl (from the north east of nowhere)' on Zoe's website.

Ex-Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint brings an all-star band to the festival to pay tribute to Art Blakey. This is basically Toussaint with a brit-jazz super group which includes Dennis Rollins on trombone, Jason Rebello on piano and Byron Wallen on trumpet. Toussaint is constantly surprising live equally at home with a bluesy groove or a Coltrane-esque flurry of passion, I've long been a fan of Wallen's playing too - he can go from funk to abstraction in seconds and it all make sense. Here's a clip of him improvising with saxophonist Tony Kofi who is also performing at the festival with compere Alan Barnes, they're billing their collaboration as "the perfect antidote to the po-faced gloom school of jazz!"

You either love or loath Hammond organ. I'm firmly in the former camp so very much looking forward to Garath Lockraine's Grooveyard (Unplugged) on Saturday afternoon. This flute-led group has more than a nod to that freewheeling 60s era of jazz when influences such as funk were appearing in the mix as well as straight-ahead bop. One assumes they'll be at least plugging the organ in or this is going to be one quiet performance. Check out the acclaimed album 'The Strut' here.

Sometimes it's nice to be surprised so I purposely haven't listened to anything by Pigfoot in advance of the festival. Billed as 'acid trad' and with a reputation for raucous live performances I get the impression they're the band most likely to whip the Spa Grand Hall into a frenzy (I wonder if the festival are on a mission to put to bed the idea of 'po faced' jazz?). I figured I'd just go along and take whatever they throw at the audience, it certainly sounds fun. But if you absolutely have to get a taster, here it is

'Jazz Thing' can be heard on Radio Scarborough - www.radioscarborough.com - 11pm every Thursday and repeated 11pm on Mondays.  Past editions of the programme can be found on mixcloud: www.mixcloud.com/adrian-riley

The full Scarborough Jazz Festival line-up can be viewed at: www.jazz.scarboroughspa.co.uk

Adrian is DJing at this year's jazz festival 'After Party' on Saturday night. Admission is free with a festival ticket: click here for Facebook event link.

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