One of the main reasons Clutch and I went to Islay when we did, was to make the most of the Islay Jazz Festival. Clutch is a musician and composer, and while jazz isn’t his usual idiom, he’s been known to dabble. I moonlight as a jazz radio broadcaster from time to time. So aside from the whisky, the interest was there.
We looked through the programme and discounted the ‘funky jazz night’. Even though Colin Steele was on trumpet (and I like his stuff), we weren’t up for anything that passes for funky grooves at a festival at which we were lowering the average age of the attendees.
We opted instead for the visiting American saxophonist, Jimmy Greene, who was a protege of Jackie McLean and was the central drawcard for the festival. It was held at Bruichladdich Hall, a large white beachfront building completely enveloped in a cloud of midges.
Greene’s tone was great, and some of his compositions were interesting – but as an improvisor, he was pretty sedate. In our state of bicycle-induced exhaustion and whisky-fuelled relaxation, we needed something a little more challenging to keep us from nodding off in the front row.
Fortunately, trumpeter Ryan Quigley was a good deal more adventurous, and bass player Mario Caribe was his usual lyrical self (I can recommend his album Caribe), but even so, we found it hard to stick it out. So we didn’t.
We left halfway through the concert and set off into the night, leaving our bikes (no lights) and chancing our arm at hitching back to Port Ellen.
From that point, nothing at all captured our attention on the jazz programme. We saved a bit of money not going to further gigs. Instead, we decided to focus our attention on the other, far better reason we went to Islay.
We consoled ourselves with the BBC Radio Scotland jazz programme on the Sunday evening instead, as we ate our seafood banquet at the B&B. They mentioned the Festival a good deal, so in a way, it was just like being there.
Only with lobster and whisky.