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Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival

The 13th Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival takes place next weekend, from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th. It’s now established itself as one of the leading events on the Scottish traditional and early jazz calendar, promising a mixture of, to quote their website, “Trad bands, Revivalist style New Orleans bands,Ragtime and early Swing, Classic Jazz, Dixieland, Rhythm and Blues and even a hit of Country and Western”.

Star attraction is the German clarinettist and saxophonist Thomas L’Etienne, who will be playing with a variety of bands over the course of the event. Other performers include Keith Nichols, Spats Langham, Dave Keir and blues singer and pianist T J Johnson. You can buy tickets for individual concerts, or get all day or all weekend rover tickets via the festival website.

Even if you’re a die-hard dirty bopper, it’s always a good weekend, in one of the most attractive small towns in Scotland*. So go along, listen to some good old-fashioned jazz, and between concerts eat in one of several good restaurants, spend money in locally owned shops, drink several pints of the local Sulwath beer, visit the quirky museum, one of the many art galleries, or simply stroll around admiring the architecture. Details of how to get there, and where to stay once you do, are on the website.

*I grew up there, so I’m biased, but the Rough Guide to Scotland agrees with me: Kirkcudbright has the “most beguiling of town centres, a charming medley of simple brick cottages with medieval pends, Georgian villas and Victorian town houses, many attractively painted”.

Trad Jazz: free improv with tunes?

In a strange way, trad jazz strikes me as being a bit like free improv, in that they’ve both got the same semi-detached relationship to the main swing-to-Coltrane body of jazz.They have their own infrastructures, with specialist record labels and events.

You get the occasional bit of both put on by mainstream jazz promoters and festivals, but they also have their own circuits in which nothing but trad or improv gets played. You get Kit Carey and Susan Alcorn playing at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, for instance, but you won’t get Wynton Marsalis playing at the Kirkcudbright Festival or at the On the Outside weekend in Gateshead.

To get you in the mood, here’s Thomas L’Etienne and the New Orlean Shakers playing Panama Rag.