Only a few months ago, the future of the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival looked to be under threat due to lack of funding - however, the community soon put paid to that, and this weekend will see the welcome return of the hugely popular annual event.
Headlining at this year’s event is TJ Johnson, widely considered to be one of the UK’s finest jazz and blues singers - he is also an accomplished pianist, drummer and a respected bandleader.
Backed by his group of top British musicians, TJ plays an extraordinary blend of music that trancends the boundaries of jazz, blues, soul, country and gospel, and is influenced by the likes of Ray Charles, Dr John, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, BB King, Nina Simone, Alberta Hunter, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy WItherspoon.
Also headlining is Carol Kidd MBE and Brian Kellock - an unmissable performance featuring the first lady of Scottish Jazz, performing with one of the best piano players on the UK jazz scene.
New to this year’s event is Rose Room - formed in 2010 and comprising virtuoso violinist and vocalist Seonaid Aitken, Jimmy Moon on double-bass with guitarists Tom Watson and Tam Gallagher completing the line-up on solo and rhythm guitars respectively.
Tom and Tam are probably best known for their work as Swing Guitars, playing at last year’s festival and indeed acorss the UK and Eurpoe.
Seonaid Aitken is well known as a solo artist in her own right, though Rose Room is a new direction for her, having developed a passion for swing music listening to Stephane Grappelli.
Jimmy Moon needs no introduction to guitar players, as a long term members of the Moonshiners bluegrass band and number one guitar builder in Scotland.
That Swing Sensation are sure to get feet moving among this year’s festival fans - they are one of Scotland’s busiest dance bands, with performances across the country.
Playing music from the 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, there is something for everyone in their repertoire, and their enthusiastic interpretation of dance band favourite from Miller, Ellington and Goodman will ensure no-one misses out.
George Rodger Gypsy Jazz are also making their way to Bute this weekend, with their eclectic selection of jazz classics.
The band has been playing in central Scotland for the past five years, and after a spell of retirement from the music business, George (on guitar) brought together some of his past colleagues to concentrate on gypsy style jazz, mainly in the vein of the legendary Django Reinhardt and more recently Bireli Lagrene.
With George are Danny Henery (accordion), and his two brothers Frank (guitar) and John (bass), and Tony Muir (drums).
Also making a welcome return to the island is Mike Whellans.
A longtime fixture on the British and European club, concert, TV, radio and festival circuit, as well as a solo performer, band leader and session musician, Mike is once again making his mark in the UK.
Mike began his musical career in the late 1950s/early 1960s, playing his father’s drum kit. By 14, he was playing in local dance bands, and now, back home again in the Borders, he is working as Scotland’s only (to the best of our knowledge!) one-man blues band.
Former Rothesay resident Angela Duncan will returning to her hometown for the festival this weekend, when she plays alongside Paolo.
Angela and Paolo (from Livorno in Italy) have been working all over the world for a number of years, and having come from different backgrounds - Angela from theatre/cabaret, Paolo from orchestra and dance bands - together, they have put together a unique and entertaining evening.
Trinity Church is playing host to the Jazz Praise Service on Sunday evening at 6.30pm, bringing with it the usual high spirits and top-notch quality music that has come to be expected at the festival.
Academy Swing will also be making their eighth appearance at the festival, having played since 2004, under the direction of the island’s instrumental instructor Tony Spencer. The band will be opening this year’s festival on Friday. Playing everything from traditional jazz to big band music, Academy Swing won’t disappoint.
Other local artists on this year’s bill include Saturday morning’s parade marshal, the inimitable Jenny Brown, plus the Tim Saul Trio with Bute Jazz Friends - and, in a new musical departure for those seeking a particularly Scottish flavour, the Bute Ceilidh Band will be making their festival debut.
Don’t forget, if you haven’t got your tickets yet, there is still time (although you will need to be quick for Carol Kidd’s performance, as tickets are selling fast and can only be purchased directly from the Victoria Hotel).
The Jazz Festival ticket office in Guildford Square is open on Friday from 2pm-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, and on Sunday from 11am-10pm, where festival programmes, with full details of who’s playing where and when, can also be purchased.