Bute gypsy jazz group ready to set sail

Les Gitanes - Tim Saul, Alec Mack, Keith McIntyre and Paul McKay - in concert at Bute Museum on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Les Gitanes - Tim Saul, Alec Mack, Keith McIntyre and Paul McKay - in concert at Bute Museum on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

The members of Bute’s own gypsy jazz quartet are preparing to entertain ferry passengers travelling between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay this weekend.

Les Gitanes, comprising Tim Saul, Alec Mack, Paul McKay and Keith McIntyre, will be whetting appetites for the forthcoming Isle of Bute Jazz Festival when they play on the 10.45am and 1pm sailings from Rothesay and the 12 noon and 2pm crossings from Wemyss Bay this Sunday, March 22.

The group, formed two years ago, was inspired by Glasgow based Rose Room and Havana Swing from Dundee - and, like them, they play music in the manner of the legendary Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club de Paris of the 1930s.

Band leader Tim Saul said “It’s the sort of jazz I love and was performing way back in the 70s before gypsy jazz enjoyed a renewed popularity.”

Tim came to Bute 12 years ago and back in 2005 was playing in a trio with bass player Paul McKay who at that time was coming back to his jazz roots as he neared the end of a 26 year career with the Manchester-based Halle Orchestra.

Initially Les Gitanes was a trio – the third member being Glasgow born semi-professional guitarist Alec Mack, who moved to the island three years ago and has a background in Scottish music, folk and pop genres.

“I have always liked jazz but never played it,” he said. “However after moving to the island I got to know Tim, we talked, the opportunity came and I’m loving it.”

The newest recruit is, like Alec, another young gun in his early 40s - Keith McIntyre, who, while born in Ireland, is from a Bute family.

Keith, who became part of Les Gitanes a year ago, plays rhythm guitar, although his musical background is mainly the pipes.

“I’ve had an on/off relationship with the guitar over the years but the chance to play with Les Gitanes was too good to miss,” said Keith.

“It’s been a steep learning curve – I am playing chords I never knew existed! - but a very enjoyable one.”

If you fancy catching up with the group on their ferry trips this Sunday, standard CalMac fares and conditions apply.

This year’s Isle of Bute Jazz Festival runs from Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 4 - see www.butejazz.com for more information.