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Jazz treats thanks to £27,000 grant

Becc Sanderson.

SHETLAND’S first ever jazz festival is taking shape after the local jazz club received a grant of £27,000 from Creative Scotland to boost the isles’ jazz scene.

The festival is to take place in late March next year and is seen by Shetland Jazz Club as the culmination of a series of concerns and projects taking place between now and spring 2012.

The start sees Australian singer Becc Sanderson fly in this week to give two performances on Friday and Saturday.

She said: “My plan is to perform my recent Edinburgh Fringe show PassionFlower in its entirety, plus tunes from the original recording that inspired the show, but didn’t make it to the Fringe.

“So expect songs from Radiohead, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and myself, to Fats Waller and Stephen Sondheim. I am nothing if not eclectic….”

Supported by Chris Grieve on trombone and Kevin MacKenzie on guitar, she will play in the Bigton hall on 23 September and in the Islesburgh Community Centre the following night.

Tickets are £9 (£7 concessions) and available from the Shetland Box Office at

Next on the calendar is a gourmet Christmas event in the Lerwick town hall featuring Bo Simmon’s cooking and what jazz club secretary Jeff Merrifield described as Scottish jazz royalty: singer Fionna Duncan, pianist Brian Kellock, and Ronnie Rae on bass.

Mr Merrifield said: “Fionna has stated that she is most excited to be returning to Shetland following her last well-remembered visit many years ago.

“This treat of a gig will be open to all members of the public and tickets will be on sale in the next couple of weeks. Full details including the scrumptious menu will also appear on the Shetland Jazz Club website”

The main focus for the club for the next few months, however, will be the organising of the jazz festival, which is planned to take place in the new Mareel music venue on the last weekend of March 2012.

The two headline performances will be from the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, more than twenty top Scottish jazz musicians led by Tommy Smith, and the Harris Playfair Trad Big Band, who were well received at the recent Fiddle Frenzy festival.

Other acts being looked at for the festival include a return to Shetland of the much-loved Nova Scotia Jazz Band, the breathtaking Brass Jaw and Scottish jazz musician of the year, guitarist Graeme Stephen.

Mr Merrifield added that in addition the club also wants to encourage local musicians to form impromptu jazz ensembles that will be given professional pianist support from a range of top Scottish jazz pianists.

He said: “A series of workshops will be run by Raymond MacDonald and George Burt of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra that will bring together an ensemble of musical improvisers to create a special piece based on Shetland themes to be featured at the 2012 festival.

“The legacy of this may well be a Shetland Improvisers Orchestra that could then take part in major improvised music festivals, of which there are many in Scandinavia and other parts of the world.”