Nov 172014

Laura Macdonald PicBy Rob Adams.

Scottish Saxophonist Laura Macdonald and New York pianist David Berkman mark the release of their new Duets album with a EFG London Jazz Festival launch and a series of Scottish gigs including the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on Thursday, November 20.

The two musicians, who have worked together in various line-ups since appearing in a band Macdonald formed for an Edinburgh Jazz Festival concert a few years ago, first played as a duo when they were asked to fill an hour’s slot in the festival’s programme at five minutes’ notice.

They had more preparation this time and exchanged emails with ideas and suggestions until they settled on a selection of romantic standards, including It Could Happen to You and My Romance.

The album was recorded, with trumpeter Ryan Quigley producing, at Gorbals Sound in Glasgow, where the studio engineers, who are used to rock musicians working at a more leisurely pace, were surprised that Macdonald and Berkman could record an album in one day.

“We spent some time sorting out microphone positions,” says Macdonald.

“Once we started playing, though, it was like we were playing to an audience. The guys in the studio were amazed. But that was definitely the way to work for us because things happened spontaneously in the music – the sort of things that normally happen on a gig and disappear into the ether – and we were able to capture them. We had a break between tunes but they were all recorded in one take.”

David Berkman photoMacdonald has previously released two albums of her own and one with the group she co-leads with Swedish drummer Martina Almgren as well as working extensively with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Donny McAslin and drummer Tom Bancroft.

She hopes that the new album will lead to further performances with Berkman, possibly involving a trip to the U.S. to play on his home territory.

“I always enjoy working with David,” she says.

“He has this great sense of jazz history in his playing, having worked with so many people including Sonny Stitt and Tom Harrell, and like me, he likes to know what a song is about before he plays it. The standards on the album have all been played so many times before but working with someone like David you hear new ways of playing them every time.”

Oct 312014

Phil clouts at pianofeatWith thanks to Cindy Douglas.

Capetown-born pianist-composer Philip Clouts takes his new quartet to Scotland for the first time on a tour from Nov 1 featuring Aberdeenshire-based singer Cindy Douglas on the opening concert.

Clouts is steeped both in the music of his native South Africa and in a diverse range of world music  he has explored to critical acclaim with his larger outfit ZubopGambia (featuring BBC World Music award winner Juldeh Camara) and which continues to inspire his compositions.

His new group, which features saxophonist Tom Ward, of the Madwort Saxophone Quartet and Porpoise Corpus, former Yasmin Levy bassist Tim Fairhall and Yamaha Jazz Scholarship-winning drummer Dave Ingamells, plays uplifting melodic jazz in moods ranging from lilting calypso to driving Latin American grooves, hypnotic swirling melodies, klezmer, township rhythms and gospel-fired hymns.

After living in London for many years and building a career that has included appearances at Ronnie Scott’s, Symphony Hall, and Glastonbury and Womad festivals, Clouts moved to Dorset where he has added music reflecting the sights and sounds of the area to his canon.

He issued the first fruits of this new phase on the album Sennen Cove in 2010, attracting airplay on BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM, UK Jazz Radio, and Radio Bremen. A further album, The Hour of Pearl, followed in 2013, receiving enthusiastic reviews from leading UK jazz magazine Jazzwise and The Guardian and wide exposure on radio.

The album, which takes its name from American author John Steinbeck’s description of “the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself,” will form the basis of the new quartet’s repertoire on this tour.

“Pulsating groove-orientated music…distinctive…spiritual and soul jazz…strongly melodic themes” – Jazzwise

“Combines lightness of touch with a rhythmic sensibility: a winning combination.” – All About Jazz

Sat Nov 1With special guest Cindy Douglas: Auchenblae Village Hall, Main Street, Auchenblae, Laurencekirk AB30 1WQ 8pm 07840 884973

Sun Nov 2: The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1HR 9pm 0131 220 4298

Mon Nov 3: The Inn at Lathones (By St Andrews), St Andrews KY9 1JE 9pm 01334 840494

Tue Nov 4: Lemon Tree, West North Street, ABERDEEN, AB 24 5AT 8pm 01224 641122

Wed Nov 5: Glasgow Woodend Tennis & Bowling Club, 30 Chamberlain Road, Jordanhill, Glasgow G13 1QG 07944354459

Thu Nov 6: Carnegie Hall, East Port, Dunfermline KY12 7JA 8pm 01383 602302

Oct 242014

With thanks to Rob Adams.

cloutsYou don’t need a degree in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University to play jazz, but it certainly helped pianist and composer Philip Clouts.

South Africa-born Clouts, who brings his new quartet to the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen on Tuesday, November 4th as part of a Scottish tour, was just finishing his studies at Cambridge when he had an epiphany.

Realising that he wanted to contribute to his own culture instead of studying others, he decided to concentrate on music and specifically the South African jazz style that had followed him to London, where he grew up.

“At that time in the 1980s there were many exiled South African musicians in London,” he says.

“Some, like Dudu Pukwana, the great saxophonist, had come over in the 1960s, as my own family had done, with the Blue Notes who became celebrated very quickly for their vibrant music. But there were others from a younger generation, including drummers Brian Abrahams and Thebe Lipere and for me, most notably the pianist Bheki Mseleku who was a great source of inspiration, and who mentored me for a short while.”

The group that Clouts formed on returning to London from Cambridge, Zubop, benefited as a whole from the exiled musicians’ input into their playing. As well as Mseleku showing Clouts the ropes, Thebe Lipere joined Zubop for their first few gigs, playing his distinctive African drum kit, and with this “rubber stamping” of their efforts, the band went on to be very popular on the live music circuit.

The band subsequently expanded into ZubopGambia, which featured the BBC World Music Awards-winning riti, or one-string fiddle, player Juldeh Camara.

In 2006, Clouts decided to leave London for Dorset and began a new phase of music-making, inspired by the coast where he lives. He continues to draw inspiration from South African music and from music from all around the world, including Cuba and South America, but something of his father, respected poet Sydney Clouts’ talent has emerged too in Clouts’ compositions, inspired by the Dorset landscape.

“There are ways in which my composing has been shaped by both my father and my uncle Cyril Clouts, who was a musician and composer too,” says Clouts, whose new group features saxophonist Tom Ward, bassist Tim Fairhall and the Yamaha Jazz Scholarship-winning drummer Dave Ingamells.

 “Cyril created very expressive music in the 1960s and 1970s and my father was profoundly affected by the landscape around Cape Town, and I like to think that living near the sea has drawn me closer to his ability to express his response to nature, except I use notes where he used words.”

May 012014

Singer Christine Tobin, who appears at The Blue Lamp on May 22, might be crowned Vocalist of the Year by order of Parliament by the time she arrives in Gallowgate, says promoter Rob Adams.


Christine Tobin appears at The Blue Lamp on May 22

Dublin-born Tobin, who studied at the Guildhall School of Music, has just been shortlisted for the title, along with recent Aberdeen Jazz Festival star Zara MacFarlane and two other singers, in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, the UK’s most prestigious recognition for jazz musicians, educators, media workers and organisations.

Nomination is open to the public but the final decisions are made by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group, whose members represent both Commons and Lords and work to raise the profile of UK jazz.

The results will be announced on May 13 in a ceremony on the Commons’ Terrace Pavilion and having come close to awards for Best Musician and Best Album in previous years, Tobin, 51, is hoping that this will be third time lucky.

“It’s always nice to get recognition for your work,”

says Tobin, who won Best Vocalist at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards and a British Composer Award for her 2012 album Sailing to Byzantium. She also won a Herald Angel at the Edinburgh Fringe last August for the show that she’s bringing to Aberdeen, A Thousand Kisses Deep, her salute to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

She will be accompanied by guitarist Phil Robson, who has worked with Barbra Streisand, and double bassist Dave Whitford

A Thousand Kisses Deep is also the title of Tobin’s latest Proper Note album, launched at a sold-out concert at Ronnie Scott’s in March. It comes just in time to mark Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday year.

“I’ve been a fan of his since I was ten,” says Tobin.

My sister had the Fill Your Head with Rock album, a diverse compilation of early 1970s music. Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Know Who I Am’ was on it and I loved it. Forty years later I still love it and I’m really looking forward to singing it at The Blue Lamp because it’s such a great, warmly-intimate venue.”

Thu May 22: Blue Lamp, 121 Gallowgate, Aberdeen 8pm 01224 641122

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Oct 172013

Singer Cindy Douglas has come up with a novel way of combining two of her passions – food and jazz – and serving them up to people in rural communities as pop-up jazz supper clubs. Photos by Alicia Bruce.

Cindy Douglas © Alicia BruceOn a recent trip to New York, Cindy observed that citizens of the Big Apple can go out for dinner and enjoy jazz at the same time in intimate and sophisticated surroundings, whereas jazz in Scotland tends to be presented in formal concert halls and arts centres or in pubs where the jazz is relegated to being background music.

Following the trend in larger towns and cities for pop-up cafes and restaurants, the Netherley-based singer has devised Eat to the Beat, a jazz supper club that will pop up initially in villages in Aberdeenshire and the Mearns.

On the menu will be great food from a roster of high-class chefs, and fine jazz from Cindy Douglas and her musicians, in locations where jazz concerts are a rarity. The plan is to roll out the project throughout Scotland and beyond.

I think of Ronnie Scott’s in London and The Blue Note and The Village Vanguard in New York, and these are places where food is part of the experience that makes going out more of an event,” says Cindy, whose singing style has been described as exuberant, mesmerising and versatile and whose repertoire covers jazz standards and original songs.

Village halls in Scotland may be miles away from these venues in every sense but I think we can give people in these communities an opportunity to socialise and make their night out one to remember for all the right reasons.”

Experience Eat to the Beat on

23 November 2013, 19:30
Auchenblae Village Hall,
Monboddo Street,
Auchenblae AB30 1XQ

Tickets: £25, includes a 2 course meal

29 November 2013, 19:30
Touched By Scotland,
Ryehill Cottage Oyne,
Insch, AB52 6QS

Tickets: £25, includes a 2 course meal


What the critics say about Cindy Douglas…

–          Singer-led jazz with a smile on its face. The Musician
–          The extremely talented vocalist sings with all her heart and soul and her glamorous voice reflects that. Jazz Beat, Voice of America
–          Explores everything from bebop to swing to world music … the song arrangements are full of captivating detail. Jazzwise

For further information on the Eat to the Beat pop-up jazz supper club, contact Cindy on 07840 884973 or by email at


All pictures © Alicia Bruce

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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.

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Jan 272012

By Bob Smith.

There’s jist nithing ti dee
Young eens cry in Aiberdeen
Iss wisna muckle o a problem
Fin I wis aroon seventeen
There wis cafes bi the dizzen
Faar ye cwid sit an chat
The famous Holburn Cafe
Or maybe the Kit Kat
Syne later on alang Union Grove
Ye cwid dander wi ease
An cum upon The Rendezvous
Better kent as Mama G’s
I learnt the airt o duncin
At Garlogie, Echt an Skene
Syne twis  ti the dunce halls
In bonnie Aiberdeen
Wednesdays – Abergeldie Jazz Club
Ti listen or jive ti Sandy West
Setterday – doon ti “The Beach”
Faar Leslie Thorpe wis at his best
There wis ither eens o coorse
The Palace, Douglas or the Palais
Faar ye cwid fin a bonnie quine
Ti snog up some dark alley
There wis Rock n’ Roll an ballads
Maybe jazz it wis yer choice
Played on the latest record players
Made bi Decca or His Master’s Voice
There wis lots o drainpipe troosers
Sweaters wi necks ca’ed crews
There wis Tony Curtis haircuts
An ticht winkle picker shoes
Ti the open air duncin at Hazleheid
Ye wid wanner hand in hand
Ti listen ti the music
Or waltz ti Bert Duff’s Band
On Sundays ye’d “waak the mat”
An see lassies bi the score
Maybe ye’d bump inti een
Ye’d snogged the nicht afore
There wis hullocks o picter hooses
The Majestic an a haill lot mair
The Capitol an the Astoria
Even hid an organ player
Ye ask’d a lassie ti the picters
She wis dolled up ti the nines
Ye really felt a cheapskate
Gyaan in the one an nines
The faavrit meetin plaicies
Fer the young an gallus
Wis ootside the “Monkey Hoose”
Or near the statue o William Wallace
There wis Eric, Bill, Neil, Ian an me
We fairly thocht we war dashin
Noo we’re aa ower sixty five
An rinnin oot o passion

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011

Dec 012011

Last year Aberdeen City Council proposed the complete closure or privatisation of Aberdeen Instrumental Music Service. After a strong campaign, the council was persuaded of the senselessness of its proposal. We were assured that the existence of the Music Service would be safeguarded, provided the Music Service made cuts requested by Aberdeen City Council. It did. The service was saved for a year, but it is once again under threat. Kathryn Reid tells Voice about the Come and Play Protest

On Tuesday 6 December, the Council’s Finance and Resources Committee will meet to discuss Priority Based Budgeting: Draft financial budget 2012-2013 5-Year Business Plan budget.

Once again it contains a proposal to ‘withdraw music tuition’.

We want to demonstrate to councillors how much musical talent is thriving in Aberdeen thanks to the Aberdeen Instrumental Music Service, and we aim to do this in the most obvious way – by playing and singing!

We are planning a Peaceful Playing Protest in Union Terrace Gardens, from 12noon to2pm at the same as the budget meeting is taking place. We are inviting as many people as possible to attend so we can really make an impact. If you are a member of an instrumental or vocal musical group, please come along with your friends and lend your talents.

More information and details are available from


This is a peaceful protest. Bring a smile and your best behaviour!

Union Terrace Gardens doesn’t have facilities for an orchestra, so take along music stands if you need them.

Neither chairs nor a PA system can be provided, so remember this when planning your performance.

Union Terrace Gardens managers have been kind enough to let us use the space, let’s show our gratitude – don’t leave behind litter or damage the area!

It’s Aberdeen, and it’s December….wrap up warm!


Write to councillors on the Finance and Resources Committee giving your point of view

Write to your MSPs

You can find addresses and links for councillors and MSPs at

Sign the online petition at:

Tuesday 6 December,
12noon – 2pm.
Union Terrace Gardens, 


Nov 142011

With thanks to Kathryn Reid.

Here We Go Again! (not) Happy As Can Be!
It was extremely disappointing to read in the newspaper that Aberdeen City’s Instrumental Music Service is again under threat by the proposed budget cuts.

After the demonstrations and campaign of last year, assurance was given that the Music Service was safe – albeit with a massively reduced budget. Once again, it seems that an important educational service is back on the table as a possible cut.

The Music Service in Aberdeen costs less per child than in any other Scottish music service. Compare this with the fact that more than 40% of the children taking part in National Orchestras, Brass and Jazz bands come from Aberdeen City – value for money indeed!

Last year the Music Service had its budget slashed by £520k – not the £170k claimed in the new Priority Based Budget on the ACC website – and it now operates on a budget of £789k from Aberdeen City Council for its 3000 pupils.

For clarity it should be noted that the Music Service and the Music School (ACMS) are two separate entities receiving their funding from different sources. ACMS, which is based in Dyce Academy, receives an annual grant of £1million from the Scottish Executive for its 40 pupils. It receives no funding from ACC.

Although the ‘Withdraw Music Tuition’ option is below the red line and is therefore under the heading of “ undesirable to progress,” it is precariously close to the red line and would become a very real option should any of the cuts above it fail to get approval.

Aberdeen’s excellent Instrumental Service should be protected and taken off the table as far as making budget cuts are concerned. Withdrawing Music tuition completely will impact on many of our children’s lives. The vision for Music in the recently introduced Curriculum for Excellence for Scotland is “Performing and creating music will be prominent activities for all learners.”

The Aberdeen City Council’s proposal to withdraw Music tuition is thus completely at odds with the Scottish Governments stated entitlement for children.

More information re.  F.A.I.M. (Friends of Aberdeen Instrumental Music), and how you can help, can be found on their web site:

STOP PRESS: A petition has been launched in opposition to the withdrawal of music tuition in Aberdeen.
Sign the petition here:

Sep 302011

With Thanks to Linda Allan.

The lilting strains of “Harmonise the World” with its powerful musical message for today’s world, can be heard at the close of every gathering of the body of women singers called Sweet Adelines International.
Audience members in Deeside will be treated to an example of this international spirit this autumn, when the Jazz Group Conference-of-Swing from Dresden and Aberdeen Chorus of Sweet Adelines team up for two evenings of lively Jazz vocals and superb close harmony.

This all came about when Riki Gohrbrandt one of the German Jazz Group, found an outlet for her musical talent by singing with the Aberdeen Chorus in her spare time while working for a year as a Foreign Languages Assistant in Aberdeen. 

She enjoyed the experience so much, and had become such firm friends with the singers, that she was determined to keep up her links with the Chorus and encourage her fellow singers in the Jazz Group to consider a trip to Scotland culminating in a joint concert with her musical friends from last year.

Several months and many reams of emails later, this plan has come to fruition.  

The Aberdeen Chorus – fresh from their success at the Edinburgh Fringe and their Show in the Music Hall Aberdeen – is soon to play host to the group of 25 talented singers from Dresden, and provide accommodation with lots of sightseeing opportunities, culminating in two concerts in the Banchory area.

On Monday 3 October at 7:30pm the two groups will make music together in Peterculter Church.  Both groups are particularly excited not only about the chance to hear each other, but also the chance to perform together as one and demonstrate to audiences what is so near to all singers’ hearts in the lyrics of Why we sing with its echoes of “Harmonise the World”.

On Tuesday 4 October at 7:30pm, Riki will sing with her group Conference-of-Swing at the Woodend Barn Banchory. 4 Quartets from the Aberdeen Chorus, Vocal Zone, Shindig, Chimaera and Singularity are also excited about sharing the stage then and this promises to be an entertaining and very harmonious event.

Tickets £8(£6) for the Peterculter Event from Peterculter Church, Riah Hair Design, Bridge St. Banchory, Kathy Davis 01330 823967, and at the door.

Tickets £10 (£8) (£5) for the Wooded Barn Event from The Woodend Barn Box Office 01330 825431, from the Website, and at the door