As the final notes faded and the festival drew to a close, we reflect on the unforgettable experience that was the Leith Jazz and Blues Festival. From June 2nd to June 4th, this annual celebration nestled in the heart of Leith, a vibrant neighbourhood of Edinburgh, brought the spirit of jazz and blues to life. With over 40 mesmerising performances, spread across nearly 20 venues, and featuring more than 70 talented musicians, the festival showcased the true essence of these iconic genres. The rich history, diverse lineup, and unwavering support of the community transformed this event into a cherished tradition, drawing jazz and blues enthusiasts from far and wide.
The Leith Jazz and Blues Festival has a long and storied history that spans nearly four decades. This community-driven and organised event has been a testament to the passion and dedication of musicians, business owners, and enthusiastic audience members. It has weathered the test of time, going on and off throughout the years, and has emerged as a cultural gem in the Leith community. The festival’s inclusive nature is a celebration of the rich musical heritage and the collaborative spirit of Leith.
Walking through the streets of Leith during the festival feels like stepping into a different era. The venues exude a unique charm, and the air is filled with the soulful melodies of jazz and the electrifying sounds of blues. From intimate clubs to lively outdoor performances, the festival offers a diverse range of musical experiences. The ambiance transports attendees to a world where jazz and blues reign supreme.
Unforgettable Performances: From Soulful Solos to Electric Riffs
At the heart of the festival are the immensely talented musicians. From renowned jazz veterans to blues maestros, the lineup is a true reflection of the genres’ evolution. The soulful saxophone solos, searing guitar riffs, and impassioned vocals create an atmosphere that transports listeners to a realm of musical bliss. The festival truly embraces the diversity and richness of both genres, offering something for every musical taste.
This year’s festival kicked off with a delightful performance that perfectly captured the essence of the event. Festival veteran John Russell, who has been gracing the stage since its beginnings, joined forces with Dave Toule, one of the newer additions to Edinburgh’s jazz scene. Their collaboration symbolised the love of music passed down through generations, as they delved into the Great American Songbook repertoire, presenting timeless melodies and jazz standards that set the tone for an unforgettable weekend.
On the blues side, Aki Remally unleashed his Hendrix-esque riffs, sending vibrations down Leith Walk and giving us a taste of the energy that would infuse the festival. As the weekend unfolded, we were treated to a mesmerising showcase of talent. The Phil Bancroft Trio’s virtuosic mastery transported us to new musical dimensions. Nicole Smit and Jed Potts delivered masterful blues performances, infusing each note with oomph and soul. Brian Kellock Trio’s virtuoso performance left listeners entranced by their musical artistry. The Paul Paterson Trio delighted us with their superb Parisian Swing and Gypsy Jazz.”
As the Saturday night fell, the swing dance party at Three Marys, led by the Kevin MacKenzie Trio, transported us back in time to the golden era of jazz. Sandy Tweedale finished the night with a packed blues party at Malt and Hops, seamlessly transitioning into a Sunday filled with world-class jazz. Konrad Wisniewski and Malcolm MacFarlane’s captivating performance, alongside the passionate Subie Coleman Trio, created an atmosphere that embraced the joy of music. Colin Steel’s trumpet reverberated through the streets of Leith, inspiring people to dance. The festival’s Artistic Director, John Burgess, closed the event with his legendary Trio, leaving us awestruck and fulfilled.
A Monthly Wish: Festival-Goers Yearning for More
Engaging with the festival attendees reveals a deep connection to the music and a shared love for the jazz and blues community. Music enthusiasts, local residents, and curious tourists come together to revel in the festival’s spirit. The vibrant energy is palpable as people immerse themselves in the performances, tapping their feet, swaying to the rhythms, and occasionally breaking into spontaneous dance. According to one enthusiastic attendee, “I wish this festival could be a monthly event because it brings so much energy to the neighbourhood.”
Another visitor who stumbled upon the festival shared, “I had no idea this festival was happening, but it turned out to be the most incredible discovery of my trip. I ended up going to 10 different gigs and it’s been the highlight of my visit to Edinburgh.” These quotes reflect the excitement and passion that festival-goers feel, forging connections and creating lasting memories in a space where people from diverse backgrounds bond over their shared love for jazz and blues.
Toast’s Katharina shared her heartfelt thoughts about this year’s Festival: “We’ve always loved the Leith Jazz and Blues Festival. It’s not just about the incredible performances from Scotland’s top musicians; it’s the friendly, joyful vibe that makes it so special. Our team can’t help but join in and have a blast. We were fortunate to have great weather yet again. While we did see more people dancing in our venue last year, it was still an overwhelmingly fantastic festival. Can’t wait for next year!”
Katharina’s words truly capture the essence of the festival and the impact it has on both the performers and the audience. The festival’s ability to create a welcoming and fun atmosphere is what sets it apart.
Building Bridges: Thriving Arts Scene and Local Businesses in Harmony
This remarkable event owes its existence to the vision and passion of local entrepreneurs such as Calum Mackay, the driving force behind this year’s success, and the collaboration of local businesses such as the Newbarns Brewery and Forth Ports, who recognised the transformative potential of live music to create a dynamic and vibrant community.
During the festival, Leith becomes a hub of activity, with a surge in foot traffic and increased customer engagement benefiting the neighbourhood. Restaurants, cafes, and shops bustle with festival-goers exploring the streets between performances. This annual celebration acts as a bridge, fostering collaboration and mutual support between the thriving arts scene and the local business network. It serves as a powerful testament to the enriching power of music, arts, and culture, uniting the community and showcasing the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship that defines the heart of Leith.
As the final notes fade and the festival concludes, the Leith Jazz and Blues Festival leaves an indelible mark on all who experienced its magic. It showcases the transformative power of music, uniting communities, fostering cultural appreciation, and driving economic growth. If you haven’t immersed yourself in the vibrant world of jazz and blues, mark your calendar for the next Leith Jazz and Blues Festival – an experience that ignites passion for music, leaving you craving more. This festival captures the true spirit of Leith, where creativity thrives, connections form, and jazz and blues rhythms pulse through the community. Join the celebration and embrace the rhythmic delight of Leith Jazz and Blues Festival.