Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 10:24 UK

Jazz festival celebrates 30 years

By Paul Gillon
Edinburgh Jazz Festival

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The festival launches the Edinburgh season

The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which runs from Friday until 3 August, is celebrating its 30th year.

The festival was started in 1979 by Mike Hart, an Edinburgh jazz musician and enthusiast.

Inspired by the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Mike gathered together some enthusiastic local musicians and volunteers and put together a small festival in the Adelphi Ballroom.

He then approached Dryburgh's Brewery, who offered to finance a pub trail around the city, with jazz appearing in 10 pubs, admission free.

The festival was a huge success, and it continued to grow and develop in dance halls and pubs.

It was soon considered the biggest jazz event in the UK.

The festival then acquired the support of Scottish Brewers, who subsidised all the pub venues.

Edinburgh Jazz Festival - poster from 1979
The festival started celebrating jazz in the capital in 1979
It featured 30 performances daily, with many acts playing three times in one day and in different pubs throughout Edinburgh.

In 1989 the festival broke the world record for the biggest jazz band in the world.

After running for a few years the festival gained in reputation and started to bring some of the biggest names in jazz to the event.

These included Count Basie musicians - Stephan Grappelli, Jay McShann, Teddy Wilson, Dick Hyman and many more.

When Dick Hymam played with Topsy Chapman at St Giles Cathedral, US President Jimmy Carter attended the concert, which caused quite a stir at the time.

This year Lee Ritenour, one of the big stars of the US fusion scene and a legendary guitarist plays at The Hub on 31 July.

'Unsung heroes'

Six former members of Muddy Water's band play their only UK appearance.

The band members are in their 70s and 80s and are joined on stage by 83-year-old super harmonica player James Cotton.

Scotland's leading jazz guitarist Martin Taylor, who played with Stephan Grapelli for 10 years, is celebrating Grapelli's music - in what would have been his centenary year - with a tribute concert featuring the gypsy violinist, Nicolescu.

Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor will provide one of the highlights of this year's event
Edinburgh favourite Tam White has teamed up with the American Hammond player Bruce Katz for what is sure to be a foot-stomping concert.

Brian Kellock, one of the unsung heroes of Scottish jazz and one of the best jazz pianists in Europe plays two dates - the first with Danish singer Catherine Legardh, whose smoky sultry voice works perfectly with Kellock's mastery of the keys.

They play at the Lot on 31 July.

The BK3 trio featuring Brian, alongside America duo Chris Lightcap (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums) play at the Hub on 1 August.

The festival continued to bring the greatest musicians from all styles of jazz and continues to do so.

Each year the Mardi Gras takes place starting at the City Chambers and heading off to the Grassmarket - it is a New Orleans-style parade with marching bands and several of the acts playing the festival.

The Mardi Gras starts at 1230 BST on Saturday and is free.

Sunday sees The Jazz on a Summer's Day concert in Princess Street Gardens starting at 1230 BST and running until 1700 BST.

This event is completely free - so pack your picnic and head on down to Princess Street Gardens.


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