Interview: Jill Rodger from Glasgow Jazz Festival

Glasgow Jazz Festival Launch

Glasgow Jazz Festival have announced an outstanding line-up for its 31st edition, bringing together world class musicians and upcoming stars for special performances. From 21st – 25th June, Glasgow will be transformed by a wealth of home-grown and international jazz talent taking over some of the most popular venues in the city.

With just over a month to go until the start of Glasgow’s oldest ongoing music festival, we spoke to Festival Director Jill Rodger to find out more about what to expect next month.

Tell us about the origins of the festival?

In 1986 Glasgow was pitching to be European Capital of Culture 1990 – they looked at the cultural events in other major European cities and decided that Glasgow too should have a jazz festival.

The first Glasgow International Jazz Festival took place in July 1987 and we’ve gone on to become one of the longest running continuous events in the city. Glasgow is already a really vibrant and welcoming city, so it makes for a wonderful atmosphere during the festival.

What have been some of the highlights over the years?

Presenting Tony Bennett in concert in George Square in 2003 to over 5,000 people was fantastic!

Miles Davis at the SECC in 1990, plus running our own “pop-up” club – the Rio Club – for a few years in the Merchant City. Last year’s 30th celebration saw Carol Kidd, who performed at the very first Glasgow Jazz Festival in 1987, return for a brilliant show at St Luke’s.

We also had saxophonist extraordinaire Kamasi Washington at the Queen Margaret Union and it’s always great to see such a mix of up and coming artists rub shoulders with jazz legends.

Do you often have returning performers who have built a relationship with the festival?

We’ve promoted the Neil Cowley Trio several times over the last 10 years or so – they will be back again this year at St Luke’s on Thursday 22nd June and in the meantime, Neil has gone on to become one of the most listened to pianists on the planet – he performs on Adele hits like Rolling in the Deep and Hometown Glory.

We have great relationships with a lot of jazz performers as the city is always such a memorable show for them.

What about local performers, what’s the jazz scene like in the city now?

Since the jazz degree was formed at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland the local scene has gone from strength to strength and students and graduates are now running their own nights in local bars and clubs.

Last year saw the 30th edition of the Festival and we focussed on 30 Scottish jazz musicians who had been born since the festival came into being.

We are continuing to present them and involve them in this year’s festival. One of our young Scottish jazz musicians is David Bowden, who is this year’s Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, and he performs at the Hug and Pint on our opening night.

What venues are involved in this year’s festival?

We are city-wide this year. The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, St Luke’s, The Hug and Pint, Drygate, BAaD,… and many, many more. There’s a real variety and the festival is a great way to experience some of Glasgow’s most famous music venues.

What are some highlights from the programme?

Tony Allen’s Tribute to Art Blakey at the Old Fruitmarket will honour the late, great Blakey as one of the most defining drummers in jazz. Theo Croker’s show at St Luke’s will be really special – he’s the late, great Doc Cheatham’s grandson but is carving a name for himself as a trumpeter, composer and adventurous musician.

We also have a special trio of centenary gigs honouring Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious and Buddy Rich.

One of my personal highlights will be the return of the Scottish Jazz Awards, which have been absent for four years. We’ve decided to bring them back in 2017 to recognise and support jazz musicians in Scotland – you can vote for your favourites here.

For tickets and the full event programme, visit the Glasgow Jazz Festival website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *