Sep 152017

With thanks to Rob Adams.

Internationally acclaimed Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith brings his new quartet to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, September 28 as part of a UK tour that includes a concert at the world famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.

The tour marks two anniversaries.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of jazz icon and Smith’s greatest inspiration, saxophonist John Coltrane.

It is also Smith’s fiftieth birthday year and he celebrated this with a sold-out, rapturously received concert in his home town during Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July.

A presence on the global jazz scene since his teenage years with vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Whiz Kids quintet, Smith has recorded for two of the most prestigious record labels in jazz, Blue Note and ECM Records.

He keeps a busy diary and when he’s not working with his own groups, directing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and overseeing the jazz programme he established at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, he tours the world with Norwegian bass master Arild Andersen’s trio, which is widely regarded as one of the premier jazz groups working today.

His new quartet was formed specifically to play the music of Coltrane, a challenge Smith describes as daunting, as well as some new pieces written by Smith in homage to his hero.

“I recorded one of Coltrane’s tunes on my very first album, Giant Strides when I was sixteen, but I’ve never felt ready to do his music justice with a full tribute concert before,” he says.

“I’m not sure I’m ready now, because Coltrane was so far ahead of his time but these musicians I have with me are some of the best I’ve ever played with and they really inspire me to try and take my playing to the next level.”

The quartet features former Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum drummer, Sebastiaan de Krom, the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2012, pianist Peter Johnstone, and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra bassist Calum Gourlay and released its first album, Embodying the Light, to rave reviews in July.

In concert they play without amplification, an approach that Smith has long favoured in his well-established duo with pianist Brian Kellock and one he prefers to follow whenever possible.

“I’ve nothing against amplified music,” he says,

“but it feels more natural to play acoustically. It makes us listen to each other more carefully and the audience gets to hear the true sounds of the instruments and the band – we sound the way we are.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jan 272017

With thanks to James Soars Media Services. 

“An epidemic is sweeping the world: an epidemic of loneliness. Never before have we, the supremely social mammal, been so isolated. The results are devastating: a collapse of common purpose, the replacement of civic life with a fug of consumerism, insecurity and alienation. We cannot carry on like this.” – George Monbiot

So how do we respond to this trend towards social breakdown?

Breaking The Spell of Loneliness is a remarkable collaboration between writer George Monbiot and musician Ewan McLennan.

They launched their project because they believe that nothing has greater potential to unite and delight than music. They seek to use the music to open up the issue of loneliness, and their performances to help address it.

The project began with an article that the journalist George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian, about the age of loneliness. The article went viral, and several publishers asked him to write books about it. But George had a different idea.

He approached Ewan McLennan – a musician whose work he greatly admired – and proposed a collaboration. Together they would write an album, a mixture of ballads and anthems, some sad, some stirring, whose aim was to try to break the spell that appears to have been cast upon us; the spell of separation.

It would touch upon issues as varied as our relationship with nature, our capacity for altruism and co-operation, the politics that lie behind loneliness, and the ways people are together overcoming this social scourge.

Around the time of the album’s release George and Ewan will perform a small number of special concerts. George will narrate the show, describe the ideas behind the songs, and encourage members of the audience to engage with each other, both then and beyond the concert. Ewan will sing the songs and perform the music that has emerged from this innovative collaboration.

Tour dates:

2 February Eden Court, Inverness
3 February Celtic Connections, Glasgow
4 February The Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh
5 February The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
8 February MAC, Birmingham
11 February Aberystwyth Arts Centre

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 172016

With thanks to Rob Adams.

louisdurra033-originalLouis Durra had a ready-made response when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last month. The Berlin-based Californian pianist, who brings his trio to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, November 24, has a very cool, groovy take on Tangled Up in Blue, one of the stand-out songs from Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album.

So he was able to slot it into his live set instantly as a dedication to the new Nobel laureate.

The opening track on Durra’s 2012 release, The Best of All Possible Worlds, Tangled Up in Blue contributed to the pianist’s unlikely elevation to American college radio sensation. In a way reminiscent of Ramsey Lewis in the 1960s, Durra’s jazz piano trio versions of Dylan, Bob Marley, Alanis Morisette and Radiohead songs took a trick with deejays and became part of the soundtrack to student life across the U.S..

A follow-up, Rocket Science, released later the same year, made similar waves with its explorations of the Beatles, White Stripes, KT Tunstall and traditional Mexican and French Canadian material.

Durra is by no means the first jazz musician to explore Radiohead’s repertoire, for example, or the first to cover pop hits of the day. That’s an idea as old as jazz itself. Durra, however, takes it further than most, even finding jazz piano trio repertoire and inspiration in Scottish electronica band Boards of Canada.

“I’m not on a ‘say no to the mainstream jazz repertoire’ soapbox,” says Durra.

“I’m just as likely to play music by Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, Joe Henderson, Annie Ross or Brad Mehldau as, say, Snoop Dog. Jazz was once described as the sound of surprise and it’s my aim to make each piece have something unexpected about it, in the nicest possible way.”

Durra’s investigation of the wider popular music canon – his most recent album, Chromakey, has a typically understated exploration of country-noir singer Gillian Welch’s Orphan Girl – stemmed from his accepting a three-nights-a-week residency in a Los Angeles restaurant.

After years of playing an accompanying role, mostly in theatre, and having made a couple of jazz albums that sold disappointingly, Durra was in danger of losing interest. His residency, which presently expanded to four nights a week, allowed him to rediscover the hunger that had led to him turning onto jazz in his teens.

With four to five hours a night to fill he determined that he, his rhythm section and the bar staff and clientele alike wouldn’t get bored with the same tunes being played on rotation. So he worked up a repertoire of some two hundred items, ranging from jazz standards to songs by the Ting Tings, Radiohead and songwriter-rapper Ke$ha.

The restaurant’s customers liked what Durra calls his oddball pop covers. So he recorded a selection of them, gave the album to a publicist and found himself with a hit on his hands. When he then decided to investigate another market, he booked himself onto the Edinburgh Fringe and promptly won an award, a Herald Angel, one of the much coveted statuettes that Glasgow-based newspaper The Herald awards for performing excellence during Edinburgh’s festival season.

On his way back to California after his second Edinburgh Fringe run Durra stopped off in Berlin, loved the feel of the city and decided to move there. Wanderlust and the lure of the Parisian jazz scene will see him relocate to the French capital in the not too distant future but his raison d’etre as a musician remains as it was during his restaurant residency

“I want to connect with the public,” he says.

“And the best way to do that, the best way to draw them into my way of playing is to give them something they recognise every now and then. Just because you’re playing pop tunes doesn’t mean that you can’t make them artistic and expressive. Besides, there’s poetry in Bob Dylan’s music – it’s official.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Oct 272016

wiszniewski-and-stevenson-featWith thanks to Rob Adams.

It’s a varied life on the road for saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist Euan Stevenson who bring their acclaimed New Focus Quartet to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, November 3. 

Already this autumn Wiszniewski and Stevenson’s touring schedule has taken them to a blues club in Cupar and churches in Edinburgh and Falkirk as well as the former seamen’s mission down by Eyemouth harbour.

“Blues and church music are two of the main ingredients in jazz,” says Wiszniewski, who is also one of the stars of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s saxophone section.  

“Jazz musicians improvise on blues scales and a lot of jazz, especially the soul-jazz style that came out of the 1950s and 1960s, draws on gospel music, so we felt at home in both types of venue and particularly enjoyed the acoustics in Craiglockhart church in Edinburgh.

“We thought it made an ideal jazz venue – and the minister agreed!”

Wiszniewski and Stevenson have been touring to promote their new album, New Focus on Song, the second release by a group that grew out of an Edinburgh Jazz Festival tribute they paid to the great saxophonist Stan Getz. In 1961, Getz recorded a trailblazing orchestral album, Focus, and in 2011 Wiszniewski and Stevenson were commissioned by the festival to recreate the music on the album to mark its fiftieth anniversary.

They so enjoyed working with the ensemble that performed Focus, a nine-piece featuring jazz quartet, string quartet and concert harp, that they turned it into their main outlet, although for economic reasons gigs with the string quartet and harp tend to be quite rare at the moment.

“Although we don’t actually sing, the music on the new album is really songlike in style,” says Wiszniewski.

“The idea was that the compositions would be roughly the same length as a pop single because people’s time is so precious these days and we wanted to try and capture their attention quickly with strong melodies, although we stretch out a bit more in live performances than we did on the album.”

Atmosphere plays a strong role in the music, too, and there’s also quite a prominent Scottish element.

“The Scottish folk influence is something that came quite naturally, just through living and working here,” says the Glasgow-based Wiszniewski, who in addition to various jazz projects has toured with award-winning folk fusion band the Peatbog Faeries and with fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke, from Lau.

“We toured with the American saxophonist Ravi Coltrane’s group last year and his musicians were very complimentary about how we were playing jazz that reflected our own culture rather than theirs, so we feel we must be doing something right.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 162015
Jyotsna Studio Mahesh Padmanabhanagar 2010 (53)

Jyotsna Srikanth will be appearing at the Blue Lamp on Thursday Nov 19

With thanks to Rob Adams.

Jyotsna Srikanth has become used to people telling her that she makes her instrument sing.

It’s a compliment that the violinist from Bangalore appreciates for sure but as she points out, it’s actually just confirmation that she’s doing her job properly.

“In the Carnatic tradition that I trained in everything is based on the voice,” she says.

“To play any phrase, whether your instrument is a melody instrument or a drum, you have to be able to sing it. So it’s always lovely to hear someone say I make the violin sing but if I wasn’t doing that, back home I wouldn’t be considered very good!”

Srikanth’s first experience of violin music, at a concert in Bangalore at the age of five, was life-changing. So taken was she by the instrument that when she got home she ran to the kitchen cupboard, dragged out two brooms and started scraping them together to try and recreate the sound she’d just heard.

“My mother thought I’d gone mad,” says the now London-based violinist who brings her Bangalore Dreams group to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, November 19.

“But I was desperate to hear that sound again.”

Srikanth’s mother, a respected singer in Indian music, had already begun training her to follow in her footsteps with six hours of daily practice. So it took a lot of pleading from Srikanth to persuade her mother to buy her a violin.

Even then, Srikanth’s mother used her motherly wiles to ensure that practice schedules were maintained. There was a bakery next door and by four in the afternoon the aromas of fresh baking would waft into their house.

“I’d get promised a bun or something else tempting if I worked on the exercises I’d been given,” says Srikanth.

“And the bribery worked!”

She made her concert debut at the age of nine and then in her mid-teens she started her training in Western techniques at Bangalore School of Music, going on to gain her grades from the Royal School of Music in London before studying to become a pathologist.

“Playing music for a living is a precarious lifestyle and I was unsure about turning fully professional until my husband got the chance of a job in London in 2004,” she says.

LIAF launch-Jyotsna playing4_12Jul12Combining pathology with music didn’t hinder her playing time, however, and she worked on some 250 Bollywood film soundtracks as well as playing concerts, eventually establishing a reputation that has now seen her regarded as the leading Indian violinist in Europe.

With Bangalore Dreams, where she’s joined by keyboardist-pianist Shadrach Solomon and drummer Manjunath NS, she ventures into jazz and rock rhythms while still using the techniques and expression she’s developed through her Carnatic music training.

“It’s a lot of fun to play with these musicians,” she says.

“They’re very serious about their music but they’re always looking to try new ideas and to bring modern ways of playing together with traditional values. Manjunath NS is brilliant. People will love what he does especially as he can play Indian percussion, is a fantastic, swinging kit drummer and he has the skill of vocalising what he’s playing, so what you get in Bangalore Dreams is strong melodies, a lot of improvisation and rhythmical vocals that are the equivalent of Carnatic beatboxing.”

Jyotsna Srikanth
Blue Lamp, 121 Gallowgate.
Thurs Nov 19, 8pm
£12 admission.
  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 282013

With his Keep What’s Left and Sharecropper’s Whine albums among the favourites of thousands of Americana addicts, news that Drew Landry was to play two Scottish dates delighted his fans and Martin Raitt’s fledgling Almost Blue Promotions was sufficiently on the ball to secure Landry for the intimate upstairs bar of the Lampie. David Innes took it all in.

DrewLandry180cAccompanied only by his six string and a percussive left foot, Landry demonstrated over two hours why his authenticity as a Louisiana bluesman saw Keep What’s Left described as ‘The equivalent to Lomax’s field recordings for the 21st Century’.

His voice careworn and resonant, his phrasing dynamic and pointed we were taken on a trip through medicine shows, jailhouses, rodeos, personal loss and ‘gator hunts.

The loch which gave the street at the rear of the Lampie its name is long gone, but Landry brought the swamp back, if only temporarily, blurring the lines between Leadbelly, Tony Joe White, Hank Williams and John Lee Hooker, who wrote the really Great American Songbook.

Landry has no set list. He asks if we want to hear a country song or a blues, perhaps a folk song. He was happy to play ‘BP Blues’ on request, prefacing the simmering attack on corporate greed by describing the shrug at loss of life and destruction of the Gulf of Mexico environment.

Describing the state of American politics as, ‘The same as it is all over the world. Crap’, Landry railed at the post-9/11 surveillance, paranoia and restrictions on freedom before treating us to a resigned and weary ‘Conspiracy Theory’. He warned us in an extended 8-minute ‘Juvenile Delinquent’, reminiscent in its insistence and attack of Van Morrison’s memorable existential rambles, that ‘we’re only one bad night away from being in the penitentiary’.

When it gets personal, ‘Lil Sister’, his cathartic reaction to harrowing family tragedy, is received with rapt, respectful silence and more than a few moist eyes and perceptible audience hard-swallowing. This ability to make the personal universal probably sums up Drew Landry’s great appeal as a writer and performer. It was a privilege to share his company.

The first half of Drew’s Lampie gig will be broadcast by Rob Ellen via his Medicine Show Radio site.


  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 302013

The welcome return of Patrick Duff to the Silver City is upon us. On the 8th of October, The Blue Lamp once again plays host to one of the remarkable singer/songwriters of our times. Furthermore, Craig John Davidson has proven a perfect support to Patrick’s set on more than one occasion in 2013, notably in Bristol last month. Esther Green writes.

PatrickDuffFeat170Last April in Aberdeen, the setting proved ideal for this solo show: candle-lit, cavernous, calm. Patrick delighted the Blue Lamp audience members with tales from his varied and fascinating life and travels, as well as stunning them into silence as they absorbed his beautifully-crafted, deeply personal songs.

It’s a scene familiar to his ever-growing band of followers and friends: the poet singing boldly into the barely-lit gloom, into what Patrick himself has described as the “pin-drop atmosphere.

Nevertheless, each gig is a unique event. Patrick is an accomplished craftsman on the stage, gauging crowd reaction and always managing to find something new to excite, to make the night one to remember.

Patrick’s links with Aberdeen have been consolidated through his friendship with local singer/songwriter Craig John Davidson, of Fat Hippy Records.  The two met at The Blue Lamp at the April gig and each instantly found a kindred spirit in the other. This friendship and their complementary musical virtuosity guarantee another incredible night on the 8th of October.

In July, his Visions of the Underworld LP was released via  Patrick is currently personalising the orders for this vinyl and download release.

A short Scottish tour featuring both Patrick and Craig, based around the Aberdeen gig, is being confirmed at the time of writing.

Patrick has been touring the UK for most of 2013 and continues successfully to tour Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. He is currently the subject of a documentary, charting his musical voyage.

Further reading/information.

Link to previous Aberdeen Voice article:

For recent video clips:

Order Visions of the Underworld:

Recent Bristol 24-7 interview:

St Paul’s Lifestyle interview clip and tour diary extracts:

For information and news, go to:

Craig John Davidson music and 57 North interview:

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jun 212013

A South American musician who is due to play in Aberdeen next week has unwittingly set off an unprecedented clamour for concert tickets in a tiny hamlet in Somerset. Thanks to Brookfield-Knights.

Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco, who was a major hit when he played Aberdeen Jazz Festival in 2007, had never heard of Broomfield before it appeared on a tour schedule sent to him by his British agent.

Then messages started arriving via his website, asking if there was any way he could personally arrange to supply tickets for his concert on July 6 as it had sold out, or if he had plans to play in the West Country again in the future.

We hadn’t heard of Broomfield ourselves,” says Loudon Temple of Brookfield-Knights, organisers of Blanco’s current tour. “We were put in touch with a promoter called Music on the Quantocks who had never presented jazz before, but had had some success with concert pianists, chamber music and light opera and liked the idea of a Venezuelan pianist coming to the local village hall to play a solo concert. They sold out Leo’s date in about 48 hours.”

Music on the Quantocks uses no posters or leaflets in its promotions. Everything is done by electronic media and word of mouth and it seems that people hearing about Blanco’s Somerset gig and sharing links to YouTube clips led to his Broomfield visit becoming a must-see locally.

Leo’s still building a reputation in the UK and isn’t signed to a major record company, and we certainly weren’t aware of any big pockets of fans in Somerset,” Temple continued, “But there are plenty of really good films of him available on YouTube and I think that’s helped in this situation. It shows that musicians can create a demand for their music just through the music itself.”

Constant requests for Blanco tickets eventually led to Music on the Quantocks adding an extra concert the following night, Sunday July 7. It also sold out within 48 hours and Blanco now faces the distinction of playing to five times the population of Broomfield over two nights.

Peter Lewis of Music on the Quantocks admitted:

“The demand for tickets took us by surprise – pleasantly – and we’re now looking forward to welcoming Leo down here for the weekend. Everyone’s talking about it.”

A spokesperson for Jazz at the Blue Lamp, where Blanco is appearing next Thursday (27 June), confirmed that there are still tickets available for the Aberdeen concert.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Dec 212012

With thanks to Pete Coutts.

If the world doesn’t end on 21st December, then Christmas and New Year are right around the corner.

Why not spend your Hogmanay at the Hogmanay Hootenanny?

The Hogmanay Hootenanny stars Smokin’ Catfish, Catford, The Jellyman’s Daughter, and is Monday 31st December 8.30pm till late at The Blue Lamp, Gallowgate .

The entry fee is £15.

Smokin’ Catfish – local 5-piece bluegrass outlaws Smokin’ Catfish have been surprising audiences in Aberdeen since summer 2008 with their stunning harmonies and foot-stomping live performances.

This traditional bluegrass line up with its inbuilt rock ‘n’ roll attitude will wear out your dancing shoes in an explosion of high-octane, string-pickin’ fun.

Catford play songs with an emphasis on creamy vocal harmonies, textured rhythms, vivid melodies, and all underpinned by great musicianship and packed with soul.

This recently-formed band of four diverse multi-instrumentalists – hailing from the North-East of Scotland – blend American and Scottish folk influences with rhythms borrowed from across the globe to create a potent mix that sets them apart. Featuring local singer/songwriters Steve Crawford and Davy Cattanach, augmented by the amazing Jonny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs) and local multi-instrumentalist Pete Coutts

The Jellyman’s Daughter are a unique new duo from Edinburgh. Their interweaving vocal harmonies are complimented by an interesting mix of cello and acoustic guitar. One of the distinguishing features of The Jellyman’s Daughter is the innovative rhythmic style of cello playing providing a catchy percussive backbeat to some of their songs, contrasted by the intimacy of others.

Sep 072012

‘Such a night….’ sang New Orleans giant of voodoo, Dr John. Indeed it was. Voice’s David Innes reports from The Blue Lamp where The Night Tripper’s fellow Crescent Citizens Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns sang, blew, rattled and Lindy-hopped their way into a packed Lampie’s hearts.

The loch that gave the street behind the Gallowgate its name is long gone, yet it seemed that a little of Lake Ponchartrain’s warm muddy waters had seeped through the antique brickwork of a beloved venue that has seen its fair share of memorable shows. This was among the best.
Sandwiched between a rousing swing opening treatment of Miss Otis Regrets and a hectic, passionate encore Hey Good Lookin’ – Hank sure never done it this way – was a mesmeric aural and visual performance of blues, swing, jazz and a dozen minor genre request stops on the way.

Meschiya’s presence is remarkable. Surrounded by a band of stellar players, all eyes are drawn to her. Yet there are no shape-throwing histrionics; her visual and vocal dominance alone fill and control the room.

She has a voice of considerable power, but it is not all gritty blues shouting, although Electric Chair Blues was a particular highlight. She croons, purrs, testifies and, in Lucky Devil, confides, ‘I am no angel, my wings have been clipped…I’d like to burn with you’. I suspect that this is what Julia Lee shows were like.

And the Little Big Horns? These are remarkable players, all seated but leader and sousaphonist Jason Jurzak, who wore his instrument like a boa constrictor, its halo-like horn offering an alternative visual attraction as it towered leviathan-like over the band, its operator blowing bottom end tones as a subterranean bedrock.

Whilst trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and acoustic guitar enmeshed as accompaniment for Meschiya, they each took regular passionate diaphragm and finger-straining solos. These are artists at the top of their game and visibly savouring every joyous moment.

Out front, Lindy Hoppers Chance Bushman and Amy Johnson jived and jitterbugged, tapped, strutted and danced what looked like sensuous-heavy variations of the tango, occasionally bringing in the singer who demonstrated that her feet are as talented as her larynx. This wasn’t a gig, it was a show, a monstrous show.

That the normal placid Aberdeen audience roared its appreciation gives measure of the reception this ensemble demanded and which seemed genuinely to astound them. Trumpeter Ben Polcer asked, in obvious bewilderment at one inter-song reception, ‘Are you ALWAYS this fired up on a Tuesday night?’ It wasn’t quite Mardi Gras, but it was Mardi, Ben.

They have promised to return. Start queuing now.

With thanks to Loudon Temple and Vocoustic Promotions