Blog

25th May 2024.

Hello there! As promised, Jazz Forward are keeping you informed re what we’ve been doing, so here is our latest update, this time about our guitarist extraordinaire: Malcolm!

What have I been up to?

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Malcolm reports “It’s nice to fall across something from the past that pleasantly surprises. This was very much the case with ‘Distant Bells.’ We first recorded this piece remotely, as a ‘lockdown’ project.”

There was actually an earlier folk-driven version of the tune – beautifully played by Patsy Reid on violin – and available on the ‘Remembering Three Places’ EP on Bandcamp. Have a listen here: 

https://malcolmmacfarlane.bandcamp.com/album/remembering-three-places.

But Malcolm believed the piece also had potential in a more Jazz direction and, working with Gordon McNeil on the arrangement, they opened it up to include some spaces for improvisation. Tom Gordon played drums and percussion and added the most luxurious ‘feel’ to the music! Andy Mitchell grounded it all with some very sensitive and tasteful double bass.

Malcolm enthuses: “Gordon’s sublime soprano saxophone really takes this to a whole other evocative and emotional dimension! He takes me to exactly the imaginary landscape and time I had in mind!”

He continues: “As this recording is a little bit of a ‘time-capsule’, I decided to resist my customary temptations to add anything to it or re-mix it. I had obviously spent a lot of time with the original track (adding multiple guitars and synths to create an ethereal sound-world) so what you hear is entirely the original conception.

Although lockdown ultimately has its difficulties (my theory about collective PTSD kicks in here, perhaps more of that later though?), being able to genuinely collaborate and create was great source of solace (and for maintaining relative sanity) to musicians at this time – we hope you enjoy the music!”

And here it is – a very beautiful piece indeed: https://malcolmmacfarlane.bandcamp.com/album/distant-bells

May 2024.

Jazz Forward collective has lately been awfully quiet on our social platforms, not because we’ve been inactive, rather there has been such a lot of work going on! Unfortunately, we have got behind in sharing everything we’ve been doing..

So, turning over a new leaf, we now introduce to you a new, regular item on our website and other social platforms, called:

What have I been up to?

The first member of the collective to share what she has been doing recently, is our very own fabulous chanteuse and sparkling personality, Marianne McGregor!

Last week Marianne had two big shows, the first being the Marianne McGregor Quintet at the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen!

The blue lamp is always a special venue to play at, and that night the crowd was wonderful. Marianne’s band played a mix of original music and jazz classics, and some interesting covers too.  Marianne said “What was really exciting for me was debuting some brand new, original material in this show, and having a super band line up – Paul Harrison on piano, Mario Caribe on bass, Max Popp on drums, Brian Molley on saxophone and myself on vocals.”

Then, just a few days later, on International Jazz Day (April 30th), Marianne presented a beautiful, candlelit concert at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh: a tribute to the great Nina Simone. This was a very intense project that entailed lots of preparation, but the music and vibe of the night was very special.  Marianne explained “It was hard to learn the full Nina set and memorise ten new songs that aren’t in my usual repertoire, but the night went well and the audience were very appreciative.”

Marianne had a similar, A-list band for this gig: Paul Harrison on piano, Mario Caribe on bass, Max Popp on drums and Michael Butcher on saxophone.  All superb players!  A particular show favourite for Marianne was ‘I Loves You Porgy,’ partly as this was her first time singing it live.

So…what’s coming up next in Marianne’s extremely full work diary? As you might expect, lots more gigs, with a busy Summer to look forward to, with performances at three Scottish jazz festivals: Langtoun Jazz Festival, Glasgow Jazz Festival and Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival.  Indeed, multiple opportunities to catch up with her at one of her gigs..!

Our Creative Voice, Friday 8th December 2023.

Jazz Forward is delighted to have been featured yesterday in Creative Scotland’s ‘Our Creative Voice.’ Lots of information about what we think and do!! See more here: https://www.ourcreativevoice.scot/jazz-forward

Fiona’s blog, for National Writing Day, Wednesday 21st June 2023

National Writing Day is primarily aimed at children, but I believe it is never too late to start writing – perhaps even regularly! The National Literacy Trust speaks of the many gains one can experience from writing regularly, such as:

  • supporting mental wellbeing
  • inspiring creativity
  • helping us express our thoughts and feelings
  • improving writing skills.

The writing I do is mainly around supporting and ‘advertising’ the wonderful music that is happening across Scotland. I certainly find that the more I write, the easier the words flow. I try to write every day, although this is sometimes more aspirational than reality due to ‘life’ regularly intervening!

Of course, all of us here in Jazz Forward write. See Malcolm’s recent lovely Blog below, not to mention all his other Blogs here which are always so thoughtful and interesting!

Marianne and Sophie likewise have written beautiful Blogs on this Jazz Forward site, and of course both regularly showcase their fantastic song-writing skills at their regular gigs! The emotional depth and poetry of their song lyrics are so very impressive.

Finally, a shout-out to all those teachers here in Scotland, especially the English teachers, to whom we owe so much.

National Literacy Trust info about National Writing Day

Malcolm’s blog – World Music Day

21st June 2023

Music is a Worldwide phenomenon and now, more than ever before, we can access how this artform manifests itself in myriad countries all around the globe.

Last week, for instance, I watched every episode of “Cardiff Singer of the World” delving back into the operatic and art song traditions of, mostly, Europe – a thoroughly enjoyable journey (including an introduction to the fabulous Scottish mezzo, Beth Taylor).

We’re now firmly in Festival season with Glastonbury this coming weekend and with one of my personal favourites, WOMAD, in just over a month’s time.

WOMAD really does celebrate a very wide range of music and never fails to inspire.

Here in Scotland the Glasgow Jazz Festival has just finished and I was lucky enough to get across there to hear the Menorcan pianist Marco Mezquida, and his trio, playing at the wonderful venue St.Luke’s.

This was a real treat and very much the group’s own take on the very broad church of what ‘Jazz’ music can be. Delightful and energetic with very few sharp harmonic corners and delivered with panache and joie de vivre.

There’s so much great music from A (Argentina – Piazzolla), through M (Mexico – Natalia Lafourcade) all the way through to Z (Zimbabwe – Mbuya Madhuve) and all points in between. Explore and enjoy!

Malcolm’s blog – 24th May 2023,

it’s national conversation week!

national conversation week – an opportunity to be creative!

According to Rick Rubin, a conversation is a creative act. In essence, I agree but, of course, a true conversation is an exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences and, unfortunately, not all are like this (sometimes they can feel perfunctory, or like lectures, press releases, reruns of old anecdotes, familiar tropes or, possibly the worst, a monologue where you’re responses are neither sought nor encouraged).

One of the most satisfying aspects of playing Jazz for me is its conversational aspect.

At best, it’s a seamless, engrossing narrative with lively, sympathetic exchanges on whatever topic the particular tune being ‘discussed’ brings to mind at that moment.

On any given day, and with any group of players, I want to feel free to ‘chat’, or go on at length, or go off on a tangent, about whatever subject comes to mind.

As an illustration of this, a duo with double bass will yield a very different conversation from a duo with a saxophonist or an exchange with a drummer.

Role playing, of sorts, will inevitably be in the mix (who’s leading the story, making outrageous interjections, the occasional non sequitur, all perhaps leading on from the initial opening gambit with the journey being the most important part).

The rigid boundaries of other genres don’t apply here (whether defined by a venerated, god-like, composer in classical music or rehearsed to perfection in the commercial Pop/Rock music sphere).

Each Jazz musician brings their own take on things (and perhaps some current obsessions too) and this can lead to pleasant exchanges, or lively debates – or downright disagreement!

In the world at large these days, technology is having a huge impact on ‘communication’.

A recent study (in the USA) showed that 58% of the population describe themselves as ‘lonely’. The so-called connectedness of the internet, and its idea of a network of friends, has actually eaten away at the art of conversation, and of actual sharing with real people.

How often do you see individuals immersed in a world of introspective ‘scrolling’ rather than being engaged in an animated chat with the pals they’re actually out and about with?

So, be creative – strike up a conversation with someone new, find out a few things about them and share a few things about yourself, you never know where it might lead!

Jazz Forward Collective @ Whighams Jazz Club, May 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

There is now overwhelming evidence that music is good for our mental health, in lots of different ways.

Musicians, whether professional or amateur understand this from our personal experience, as do those who are music fans. The ‘high’ that can sometimes even amount to a feeling of bliss, is not an infrequent experience.

And it’s not just anecdotal. Research studies likewise support there being multiple positive effects of music on our sense of wellbeing, physical and cognitive health, and on actual mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. There exist a great many articles about all this, of which the following are two brief ones:

The Science Side of Jazz: How it Affects the Human Brain

What jazz music can do for especially the young brain

Nevertheless, ‘the slings and arrows’ of life are prevalent enough that it pays to, from time to time be on the lookout for any sign of emotional distress or even mental illness. Here are some of the possible warning signs of this.

Fortunately, many of us have family or friends who can be there for us, and in addition in the UK there are places one can reach out to for support, of which the following is a selection.

So, here’s to good health including mental health for us all! And here are a few more pics of Jazz Forward supporting their own and the Whigham audience’s mental health/ having a ball, last weekend!

Jazz Forward’s fabulous new business cards!

International Jazz Day 2023 and the final day of Jazz Appreciation Month! Sunday 30th April

Happy International Jazz Day, folks! Indeed, double happiness, as today is the final day of Jazz Appreciation Month!! We sincerely hope you Jazz fans and musicians out there are all living your Best Jazz Lives.

Whilst Jazz is not currently as widely ‘consumed’ as it once was during, say, the 1950s when across much of the world it was the Pop music of that time, music industry statistics suggest that Jazz is in fact starting to increase in popularity again. For many of us of course, it never lost its allure..

This resurgence seems to be widespread, and chimes in with Jazz Forward’s aims to support Scottish Jazz in reaching across Scotland and the UK, but also to overseas. The exceptional quality of contemporary Scottish Jazz is such that it deserves to be spread far and wide.

As part of this endeavour, Jazz Forward’s Marianne has just spent the last few days* at the wonderful annual Jazz trade fair and festival for Jazz, jazzahead! in the city of Bremen, Germany. We also now have some attractive new Jazz Forward business cards (see above) to hand out, to help spread the word widely about Jazz Forward. We are especially pleased with the QR code which links directly to our Jazz Forward website!!

So, Happy International Jazz Day to you all, and we hope to see many of you over the next year at our gigs around Scotland – and we hope, beyond!

*Huge thanks to Creative Scotland for funding Marianne’s trip.

Where we have been and where we are going.’ By Marianne, 27 April 2023.

As we move into the next phase of Jazz Forward we took some time out to evaluate our aims and goals, acknowledging everything we have accomplished so far and looking forward to fruitful and prosperous future plans.

The freshest and most meaningful path for Jazz Forward has been and continues to be for us, to focus on delivering excellent live original Scottish Jazz music to captivate our audiences! We intend to continue down that avenue and aim to develop Scotland’s jazz touring circuit, exploring new venues and territories, and widening horizons where jazz can be programmed and appreciated.

In any collective or group, excited ideas can swarm and sometimes become overwhelming. We looked back at the core purpose of why we started Jazz Forward, which was born from the desperate months of lock-down when we were all aching for live music and gigging to return. Along with the exciting prospect of touring with JF we have also been developing an idea where we could bring an educational element to future Jazz Forward events, perhaps in the form of pre-gig workshops and presentations including audience members, or a talk given by the composers and songwriters giving an insight into their writing, either of these to be included as part of a concert programme.

The supportive Jazz Forward team are lucky to be in no short supply of inspiration, motivation and positivity. In 2022 we were delighted to be included in ‘Scotland On Tour’ where we three musician members of JF performed under the name ‘Jazz Forward Collective’ at the Lochwinnoch Arts Festival, with much needed logistical and marketing support from Fiona. We then went on to do our official launch gigs in November 2022 after acquiring funding from Creative Scotland. At our launch gigs (a mini tour we did featuring dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Pathhead) we redesigned our concert-ready package to include our three main acts – Bancroft & Lyne, Marianne McGregor Trio and Malcolm MacFarlane & Ross Milligan.

We re-emerge now with two excellent products to offer to Scottish and further afield opportunities. We have our curated triple-headline concert featuring the three acts mentioned above. But we also have something that formed very naturally, the JF Collective, featuring Sophie Bancroft, Marianne McGregor and Malcolm MacFarlane, with various arrangements of original music on guitars, piano, vocals, harmonies and ambient guitar pedal sounds.

We have decided to keep pursuing both of the above concert styles, meaning we will do smaller events as the JF Collective, or with appropriate opportunity and funding, we’ll present our triple-bill curated concert.

Writing and developing new ideas is very important to us. Three of our four members are composers and songwriters, writing about life in Scotland and living in the Scottish Jazz Scene. Our fourth member Fiona Mactaggart is an excellent jazz journalist and she has been creating blogs about the process of our work, showing another side of the experience. This collaboration between three musicians and a writer has become a very rich and important connection, which allows us to play to our strengths and work towards a bigger splash for Scottish Jazz in years to come. 

One of the main things we wish to achieve is for original Scottish Jazz music to be heard and enjoyed, and represent Scottish Jazz in a way that it is not always valued these days. We want to be heard – our music, and our message for collaboration and growth.

We were delighted to be able to record several professional, high-quality live videos of our original songs, as part of our generous launch funding from Creative Scotland. In these videos we performed original music in our three main acts, the footage and audio taken from our launch show in Pathhead. Our next big video project will hopefully commence in June 2023, working with the same videographer, Matt Elliot – who was so great to work with last time! In this new video project we intend to showcase how wonderfully the stripped-back sound of our trio, the Jazz Forward Collective works with each of our compositions and our sensitive collaboration.

We are extremely excited to act as ambassadors for Scotland with some international touring. Both the above packages – whether that be the triple-bill concert featuring our three acts, or the smaller but equally engaging trio, the JF Collective, are export-ready and refined to show the best of what we have to offer, equal parts secure and rehearsed and also lively with spontaneity!

So, what’s next? Honestly, we are bursting at the seams to see that for ourselves. The funny thing about doing a ‘launch’ of a new project, is that periodically you find yourself wondering what out of all your ideas, to do next. Amongst our gigs, live videos, website, blogs, podcasts, online content and plans for the future, we certainly have our hands full and attitudes ready to enjoy and enhance Scottish Jazz, as we originally, over a year ago, set out to.

Thank you so much for your support. We are, all four of us, so excited to see what the next year holds for us. And we’d absolutely love it if you continue to be part of this next stage of Jazz Forward’s development!

Sophie Bancroft: About my song ‘Calgary Bay’ – 21st April 2023

CALGARY BAY

I first visited the Isle of Mull back in summer 2004 largely because my 4 year old son Leo was hooked on the kids TV programme Ballamory – set in Tobermory. I fell head-over-heels in love with the island and most especially Calgary Bay, a beautiful and atmospheric beach located on the North-West of the Island looking out to Canada that grabbed my heart the moment I lay eyes on it. For a while I became slightly obsessed with the notion of moving my family out to the island and spent a few months checking out house prices but sadly they were out of our financial reach. I suspect our lives would have turned out very differently if we had moved there. I fantasised about my children growing up seeing whales, dolphins, and otters, and spending a lot of their time on or beside the sea, but in fact the field and forest surrounds of Pathhead where we have lived for the last 22 years has been equally beautiful and inspiring, and ultimately has been much easier travel-wise to get to work commitments here, there and everywhere.

Early in 2005 the Scottish music scene received the devastating news that the musical genius and much-loved person Martyn Bennett had passed away, far too young. It sent huge shock waves through our community. Martyn was a huge inspiration to us all and had been a big supporter of the music I was writing and performing in the 90s which meant a huge amount to me. He was a very lovely, funny and exceptionally talented soul. You can find out more about him and his amazing music here – http://www.martynbennett.com/

Not long after learning of his passing I discovered that he was going to be buried at the graveyard that looks out over Calgary Bay – Martyn had grown up on the Isle of Mull. I wrote my song Calgary Bay as a way of processing my grief about Martyn’s passing, drawing from the hugely spiritual connection I had felt with Calgary Bay itself on my recent visit and a sense of comfort that this was where he was going to be laid to rest. Calgary Bay was one of those rare moments of song-writing where the song gets written in its entire form in one go – almost as though it was waiting to be created.

Being by the sea is the place where I feel my most free and at one with the world. It brings me peace and consolidates my sense of connection with this extraordinary planet that we live upon. I have to say that not being able to visit a beach during the Covid-19 lockdown is one of the things I am finding the hardest to bear.

To my absolute delight Calgary Bay has been recorded by the amazing vocalists Luca Manning and my dear friend Liane Carroll with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. You can check out their stunning versions here

https://lianecarroll.bandcamp.com/tra…

https://soundcloud.com/jazz-from-scot…

I never took photos when I was visiting Calgary Bay, largely because I was busy with a 4 year old son, so I am very thankful that fellow musician Martin Waugh, who is a fan of my song Calgary Bay, sent me some of his photos of Calgary Bay which he visited after hearing my song.

Calgary Bay (photo by Martin Waugh)

I created a video with some of my photography alongside my recording of this song with amazing pianist Louis Durra which you can view here on my YouTube channel
https://youtu.be/B7U1uxOv5WA

CALGARY BAY

Words + Music by Sophie Bancroft ©2005
And the light was beautiful
And the wind with soothing soul
Made the sun set warm on Calgary Bay.

And the silhouettes
Of the trees with no regrets
How they lean with a style
On Calgary Bay.

And those who are weary
Lay there a while
And offer a smile in return
In Calgary Bay I’ll stay.

And the seaweed birds
In the magic trees
Keep their silent guard
On Calgary Bay

And the sand of gold
From the rocks of old
All embraced by the sky
In Calgary Bay.

And those who are lonely
Lay on the sand
And felt the great hand of time.
In Calgary Bay I’ll stay.

And those who are happy
Gaze at the sea
Becoming as one with the clouds.
In Calgary Bay I’ll Stay.

Trees @ Calgary Bay (photo by Martin Waugh)

“And the seaweed birds in the magic trees” refers to these trees and trees in a nearby place which had sculptures of birds made out of seaweed.

I hope you enjoy the live version of Calgary Bay performed by Bancroft & Lyne at the Jazz Forward launch concert at Pathhead Village Hall in November 2022. It is one of our favourite songs to play in the duo, and I love what Tom plays in his solos, he always adds a magic.
You can watch here

Other recordings of Calgary Bay:
Sophie Bancroft – HANDWRITTEN – Lisaleo 0501
Sophie Bancroft with Louis Durra – SONGS – LisaLeo 0801

Sophie Bancroft: About my song ‘Miles Away’ – 30th March 2023

Watch and listen here

Miles Away – Sophie Bancroft (©1995 PRS/MCPS)
I first recorded this song with said husband – Tom Lyne, the other half of Bancroft & Lyne – on our duo album which we recorded back in 1999 in a studio shed in the garden of my family house in the centre of Edinburgh.  During lockdown, a time when we livestreamed every week to maintain some semblance of sanity, we completely changed the time signature and key and I was very pleased with how the song adapted to wearing a new set of musical clothing. We recorded this new version on our most recent duo album ‘Monday Nights’ in 2020, an album that captured some of the repertoire we had developed during our weekly lockdown livestreams and the many rehearsals we were able to have due to having so much time on our hands. The live video from the Jazz Forward launch concert at Pathhead Village Hall in November 2022 is an unusual rendition as normally Tom plays his jazz fender electric bass on this song, but it works great with the double bass too. I hope you agree.

Thinking about being far away from someone you love evokes a timeless and universal emotion and I suspect this song will be one that I am able to sing throughout my life. It’s an old friend who I can trust to stick around.

Recordings of Miles Away
SOPHIE BANCROFT: Miles Away LISALEO RECORDS 0101
BANCROFT & LYNE: Monday Nights LISALEO RECORDS 0901

Marianne’s second blog today, 14th March 2023: Life of a Jazz Singer.

Red lipstick and gold earrings are my gig armour. I have certain rituals on gig days, like having coffee early in the day as I sit and hand write setlists for the night to come, or arriving at the gig a little early so I have time to take myself off for a quiet cigarette.

In my first few years of doing gigs I didn’t really enjoy talking to the audience, I felt like I would fumble over my words so I sang and never spoke much. Now that I’m a bit older, and not much wiser, I have a laid back approach and I try my best to have fun and give as much as I can in every performance.

Most of the songs I sing, whether that’s standards or original songs, are about love or lust wanted or lost. I try to live the joy or heartache I’m singing about in the moment. I grew up listening to the pain in Billie Holiday’s voice and the bouncy joy of Ella Fitzgerald and now the two can live side by side in the same set list.

This is an old, old song of mine written back in 1995. My daughter was 3 years old and I was a single parent at the time. I remember writing this song whilst sitting on the floor outside the bathroom while Lisa was having a bath – I seemed to write quite a few songs in this way. Bathtime often presented a creative opportunity while Lisa was occupied with bubbles and bath toys. It also coincided with a period of my life when I would fall in and out of love with various men that lived far away, hence the lyric for this song. Needless to say the man I ultimately married lived in Canada for the first 6 months of our relationship so this song worked throughout that long-distance relationship period too.

Marianne’s blog 14th March 2023: Reflecting on Jazz Forward Launch.

In November 2022 we launched Jazz Forward with a mini tour featuring gigs on three consecutive nights in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Pathhead.

Featuring the three Jazz Forward bands – Bancroft and Lyne, Malcolm MacFarlane and Ross Milligian, and my band the Marianne McGregor Trio. It was equal parts exhilerating and inspiring to see our ideas and planning come to fruition.

On the first night we played at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh. It was a crazy rainy day but everyone was in high spirits anyway. Bancroft and Lyne gave a stunning set of original contemporary jazz songs. I was particularily transfixed by Sophie’s haunting voice and moving songwriting. There were definitely some ‘pin drop’ moments, with Sophie and Tom’s songs reaching every person in the room. The second night brought us to The Drake bar in Glasgow. This gig was an intimate, cosy and special night of music and merriment. Although it was a small space and a tiny stage, it felt like a night of story telling among friends happliy sipping wine.

The final night of our tour brought us to Pathhead Village Hall. I loved hearing Malcolm and Ross’s on stage banter and the exquistite collaboration on two guitars. Playing some compositions by Malcolm and some by Ross, the duo played intricate instrumental jazz guitar songs. Swapping from solo sections seamlessly, the grooves brought an exciting lease of life to the room.

Whats next for Jazz Forward? We arent quite sure.

Myself, Malcolm and Sophie and all the other musicians really enjoyed the performing side of things and we couldnt have done it without our fourth member Fiona who was basically everyone’s right-hand-woman for just about everything over those three days!

We had a lot of fun, learned a lot and delivered three excellent shows. It was a lot of learning on the job, but one things for sure – we make a great team.

Marianne’s blog 13th march 2023: Behind The Music.

Every songwriter and composer has their own method (and usually madness) but for me songwriting is like writing a diary entry, a confession, singing away pain and reforming memories into art, a badge of progress.

‘Breathing In The Smoke’ was the first original song I released back in 2019. I wrote it about young love and infatuation, making mistakes and wearing my heart on my sleeve in my early twenties. It’s packed with attitude and tells the story of chasing someone who isn’t good for you.

‘I Heard You Could Die From A Broken Heart’ is the only song that I’ve written trying to replicate the form of a jazz standard. It’s sweet, but also quite sad. The main message in this song is to hold onto whatever’s good while it’s infront of you as it might not be around forever.

‘A Brighter Day’ is one of the few songs of mine that isn’t about love and relationships. This one is more of a letter of encouragement to myself. During tough times around 2020/21 I wrote this song as a reminder to be good to myself and remain hopeful for the future.

Happy International Women’s Day 2023!

8th March 2023

For International Women’s Day, we thought we’d share some of our thoughts about Jazz Forward’s origins.

As is widely known, pursuing Jazz music in the UK can be a tough career. There are a great many highly talented musicians in the UK, but a media that promotes mostly Pop does not always encourage a widespread awareness of the Jazz riches that exist here.

This is compounded by long-term underfunding of the Arts in the UK, at least compared to many other European countries, so that musicians’ incomes are often precarious and many require second jobs.

And if you are a woman Jazz musician, there are yet more barriers to success. In recent years such issues here in the UK have been explored in several research projects – here’s just one that focusses on some of the additional issues facing women who work in Jazz: Open Access Report.

With all of this in mind, Jazz Forward agency was set up in 2021, with three of our four founding members being women, as we believed this offers the best chance of our supporting some of the amazing women jazz musicians working away, here in Scotland.

So, here’s to a future that is enriched by equal access to the wide spectrum of musical genres, together with equal opportunity for women musicians.

Many thanks to Creative Scotland for funding our pilot phase and launch. #IWD2023 #EmbraceEquity

Malcolm’s blog 26th February 2023

“Exciting News”

On Friday the 17th of March 2023, I’m performing a concert in Birmingham with the Birmingham University jazz orchestra directed by the wonderful, multi-talented, and also Scottish, musician, arranger and composer Jonathan Silk.

The big focus of that evening will be playing a selection of my original music composed for jazz orchestra. This represents about 15 years of work overall as some of these pieces date back to 2009 – although all the older music has been specially revised for this occasion.

Whilst I’m there, I’ll also be spreading the word about Jazz Forward to the audience, musicians and the wider creative community. Chatting, answering any questions, handing out business cards and letting people know about the Jazz Forward website, the YouTube channel, social media and so on. I hope they’ll all be interested and impressed by our vision, aims and ambition as well as what we have managed to achieve so far.

The music we’ll play on the night also includes some songs that I’ve written. This is partly due to one of my many ‘lockdown’ activities, one of which was joining an online song writing group led by London-based musician and producer Geoff Gascoyne. This got me into creating my own songs and focusing away from purely instrumental music. Unusually, the University jazz orchestra has a vocal group too so we’re collaborating by introducing vocal lines and harmonies into some of the instrumental music.

The collaborative element is a really important aspect of this project for me with some eagerly awaited lyrics currently being penned by the students. I really want this evening to be their version of the music and for them to be invested and let their creativity loose!

As another part of this process, Jonathan Silk has kindly agreed to arrange one of my songs that, until now, was only in a small band format, his work is wonderful and he’s really moved this piece on to something truly epic, so much so that he’s now a co-composer!

Musically, this is a big shift from the intimate guitar duo format featured in the Jazz Forward launch tour but it’s all part of the broader portfolio of what Jazz Forward is creatively and will help to showcase what its members are capable of.

This is going to be a really exciting night of music making!

Fiona’s blog 15th February 2023

Finally, here are some comments from our fantastic audience and some pictures from our third launch gig, this one at the fabulous Pathhead Village Hall.

This concert was recorded by the hugely talented Matt Elliot with wonderful support from Mo Storey who both did a fantastic job. We’ll be sharing some of our songs that they recorded, soon!!  

But for now, here’s some of the great feedback we received from the audience that night:

“Beautiful mix of styles and material – superb quality…”

“I’m not normally a fan of Jazz but this was such a good entertaining night…”

“Absolutely loved the whole evening – thank you.”

“A great evening’s entertainment by first class musicians original material played really well. Big thanks.”

“Great playing and singing, really fantastic talents.”

And here are a few of the pics!

That’s all for now, but keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful videos…   ; -)

Fiona’s blog 30th January 2023

So, this is a second post about Jazz Forward’s November launch, when over three days, three of our bands performed in Edinburgh at the Wee Red Bar, at Glasgow’s The Drake and at Pathhead Village Hall.

Today I’ll focus on our Glasgow gig, at the delightful and intimate The Drake. The staff were fabulous and so too were the audience who helped create a real party atmosphere! Here’s some of the very lovely feedback we received from the audience that night:

“An amazing evening – relaxing, good venue & really fantastic music! Look forward to seeing you again.”

“That was a wonderful time, thank you for introducing a few Bostonians to Scottish Jazz. Best way to spend a Friday night!”

“Wow What a fantastic evening – thank you. Really enjoyed the diversity, chat & extraordinary talent. I’ve learned somethings about Jazz today. Jazz Forward is THE WAY FORWARD!”

And some pics to give a feel of the evening:

It was such a really lovely evening at the Drake! 

And in our next blog we’ll upload some pics of the Pathhead gigs!! ?  So, watch this space.. !!

Fiona’s blog 20th January 2023

So, it’s well into January already and Jazz Forward are busy hatching plans for this year and beyond! More on that soon.. 

But yes, the time has just flown since Jazz Forward’s November launch, when three of our bands performed in Edinburgh at the Wee Red Bar, at Glasgow’s The Drake and at Pathhead Village Hall over three days. We had an absolute ball at all three and received lots of very positive feedback in our new Feedback Book – here are some comments from our Wee Red Bar gig:

“An amazing experience, loved all of the music…(I) hope to see more of every act.”

“A truly wonderful evening of Jazz ie food for the soul.”

“Lovely evening of talent – Great launch – good luck!”

The Wee Red Bar event was such fun, the crew there so very helpful and the listening audience very appreciative. Thank you to everyone who came out on such a cold, wet Edinburgh evening! Here are a few snaps to give a feel of the evening:

We took LOADS of pics at each gig; we’ll upload some from the Glasgow and Pathhead gigs, here, in the near future! And soon too, we’ll share with you our exciting plans for Jazz Forward, going forward!!

Thank you again for taking an interest in our fledgling, new agency Jazz Forward.

May 2023 be a healthy and happy year for you all!

a return to the Wee Red Bar!

(in January 2023 with ‘Sequence’)

Now that the dust is slowly settling after the whirlwind of our 2022 launch tour, it’s time to not only reflect on past successes (such as some of the great audience quotes on the Jazz Forward website) but to look to what the future has in store.

We had a great time at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh so this time we’re back at this little hidden gem of a venue on 24th January 2023 with the electric guitar quartet ‘Sequence’.

You can check a small selection of the music out on our YouTube channel:

Tickets are available here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sequence-electric-guitar-quartet-live-tickets-502475877877

This is our first ‘Sequence’ gig since our trip to Belgium with the band in early November 2022 so we’re all very excited to be playing this music again – we hope you can make it along!

Fiona’s blog 7th November 2022

The countdown is on!! It’s only 10 days until our three Jazz Forward launch gigs kick off, the first of these being at Edinburgh College of Art’s delightful Wee Red Bar on Thursday 17th of this month, doors at 7pm.

It’s just the right size of venue for intimate Jazz and there’s always a great atmosphere there! Please do come along if you can – the entrance is off Lauriston Road through the square archway. Tickets here. ?

One of Jazz Forward’s founding principles is in fact that we want to, whenever possible, bring Jazz to venues that don’t necessarily often put on Jazz events, so this choice for the first launch gig was a no-brainer! Our Glasgow launch gig on the Friday 18th November is likewise at a lovely, ‘bijou’ venue: The Drake.

For our third launch gig, on Saturday 19th however we chose an old favourite: Pathhead Village Hall.  

Tickets for all these gigs are here and we hope to see you at one or another of these exciting events! ?

Malcolm’s blog – 17th October 2022

Exciting times ahead!

We’re very much looking forward to the Jazz Forward weekend of launch gigs in November. I’m particularly excited to be playing in a duo again with Ross Milligan (IMHO, one of Scotland’s finest composers). We recorded two whole albums and an EP in lockdown and our second release, “Where Two Rivers Meet” even got a 5-star review in Jazz Journal!

The nature of these recordings was remote, due to lockdown, so playing this material live gives it a whole other dimension sonically and in terms of improvisation and interaction. Individually and collectively our music and conceptual approach is inspired and informed by the amazing landscapes and stories of Scotland. I suppose we’re trying to depict the epic, and unique, open spaces and the feelings of some of the myths and legends associated with our homeland. Please come along to see whether you think we’ve managed to pull this off!

Here’s a link to our second album, enjoy!

https://rossmilligan.bandcamp.com/album/two-rivers-meet

Fiona’s blog 11 October 2022

“Songs are thoughts which are sung out with the breath when people let themselves be moved by a great force…” – Orpingalik, a Netsilik (Inuit) elder.

This quote is from the liner notes of John Luther Adams’ latest album, which I was listening to this morning in the belief that there is no better way to start the day than with some beautiful music – ideally music which makes us think as well as feel.

The thought occurred that the songs and music we create in Jazz Forward, and in Scotland’s Jazz scene in general, are likewise, necessarily rooted in our indigenous culture – our Folk music, our social history, our landscapes. As everything is linked, how could it be otherwise?

In addition to the above musings… I am reminded that it’s only just over five weeks until Jazz Forward’s Launch Concerts!! Do come along for some great music and celebrate the launch of our new Jazz Forward agency! Tickets are here:

Edinburgh Tickets

Glasgow Tickets

Pathhead Tickets

Fiona’s blog 26 September 2022

We’re so excited: A lovely feature has appeared about Jazz Forward by the fabulous Women in Jazz Media, for the equally amazing Jazz in Europe!! Thank you so much! Jazz in Europe interview/ article about Jazz Forward

Fiona’s blog 30 August 2022

This is such an exciting time in Jazz Forward’s journey!

Whilst we’ve already started to do Jazz Forward gigs (featuring Sophie, Malcolm and Marianne – the three musician founder members of JF), we’re also carefully laying the foundations for our agency, which in the fullness of time we hope will help quality live jazz be heard regularly right across Scotland. This will include those parts of the country that don’t often get to experience great live music and also hopefully take place sometimes in less ‘usual’ venues.

Meanwhile we want to share our current exciting news: tickets for our formal three ‘launch’ concerts this November at Edinburgh (Thursday 17th), Glasgow (Friday 18th) and Pathhead (Saturday 19th), are now available here!!

https://jazzforwardlaunchedinburgh.brownpapertickets.com/

https://jazzforwardlaunchglasgow.brownpapertickets.com/

https://jazzforwardlaunchpathhead.brownpapertickets.com/

So, the plan is that the bands of Jazz Forward’s Sophie, Malcolm and Marianne will play one after the other – and if they have any energy left by the end, there will be all-musician jam session!!

We are SO looking forward to these gigs and hope to meet as many as possible of you at them! We also plan to film some of these events – a huge thank you to Creative Scotland for enabling all this.

Also, you may know that Sophie is an experienced podcaster – her series of interviews last year with the great Fionna Duncan was extremely well received. Sophie has just recorded a series of interviews with each of us, so if you’d like to know a little bit more about us, the first podcast is available here [ctrl + click on Podcast title]:

So, that’s all for now. One or other of us in Jazz Forward will aim to publish a wee update on this Blog on a regular basis, so as to stay in touch with you about what we are up to. ‘Bye for now!

PS: I wanted to share the above pic with you: it’s a typically gorgeous view from the Fionnlagan (in English, Finlaggan) ferry, taken a few days ago as I returned from holidays.

Fiona’s blog 20 August 2022

August has been quite a busy month for each the Jazz Forward collective. Malcolm has outlined some of his activities in his recent blog entries below. He is so multi-talented, possessing skills in so many different areas of music!

Sophie too has been very busy with her many projects. As well as her regular, chilled-out Monday evening online gigs with bassist Tom Lyne, Sophie has been using her renowned teaching (and nurturing!) talents to present intensive vocal workshops, her current one in France.

Meanwhile Marianne has been gigging very intensively, mostly across the Scottish central belt – sometimes even having two gigs per day! If you live in that region, why not check out her website and see if you can catch one of her performances near you?

So, before I go down to the beach (as I’m on holiday this week!) to listen to a strange and I find, beautiful kind of music – the wailing of the Island of Orsay seals – I’ll post here my brief overview of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival for the New York zine, DooBeeDooBeeDoo: EJBF overview     

Malcolm’s blog August/September 2022

“Alchemy” – a new trio! This was created specifically after a request to fill a slot at one of Leith’s newest music venues, the “Malt & Hops”. We were given the brief ‘jazz/funk/groove stuff but quiet’ (as it’s a small venue) – which might seem counterintuitive as ‘funk’ is usually pretty loud and ‘in your face’ but, as we’re fond of a challenge, we took the bait! One of the first things to do was come up with a name so, as the trio is Alasdair on bass, Keith on drums and me – I came up with ‘Alchemy’ (Al-Ke-Me). It’s a very tight space in the venue so Keith brought a small kit and played only with brushes and ‘hot-rods’ (no sticks!). This makes for a very intimate sound and we really play with dynamics as a focus much as possible (they’re as big a part of the improvising process and notes and chords really). We also are very ‘loose’ on the arrangement front with the forms of tunes taking shape as we feel them in the moment (I can easily give verbal instructions like ‘middle 8’ or ‘coda’ or ‘drum solo’ as the trio is so quiet). As you might suspect, the first gig was a bit of a voyage of discovery but the potential was obvious from then. On the 2nd gig, Keith, who had been unhappy that his drum kit had taken up too much space bought a smaller kit especially for the occasion (now that’s dedication!). It was an even more perfect soundworld and it was a really fun gig with a great audience too! So, the future – we’re playing 3 gigs in September, the first is a private party (yes, we do those – feel free to get in touch!) and then we’re at the prestigious Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on the 14th September and then back at our ‘spiritual home’ (the “Malt & hops”, Leith) on the 21st September – we hope you can make it along to join in the groovy, but quiet and dynamic, fun!!!

Fiona’s blog 9 August 2022

The summer unfolds with surprising speed here in Scotland, with Edinburgh now well into its festivals season and each member of Jazz Forward very busy with their own separate, as well as Jazz Forward, projects. The following are some of my musical activities!

The lavish, 10-day long Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (EJBF) reminded many of us jazz-lovers of the joy of once again being immersed in top quality live music. EJBF kindly provided me with tickets to (at my request) mostly Scottish-based bands and I have relived the deep pleasure of each gig by writing brief reviews for my Scottish Jazz Space website. Additionally, an overview of EJBF2022 I wrote for a New York-based music zine DooBeeDooBeeDoo will be published very soon. It’s great to be able in this way, to spread the word overseas about how brilliant Scottish jazz is!

Also, last week Julie a schoolgirl from New Hampshire, USA got in touch to say she had been using Scottish Jazz Space for a school project, which is wonderful! I firmly believe children benefit hugely from jazz being in their lives and vice versa.

Anyhow, I’m now off to listen carefully to many dozens of new albums for the Scottish Album of the Year Award. What a privilege and pleasure it is to hear all this new music being created in our country!

Malcolm’s blog July/August 2022

Busy times here, not only on the JF front but individually too. We (as JF) are rapidly heading towards our official ‘launch’ and our first set of gigs in the Autumn so there’s lots to do and it’s all progressing very nicely behind the scenes! For me, as usual, things are always cropping up as a freelancer but, alongside that, I’ve been working on a large-scale composition since May 2022. Although I wrote and created (and recorded and produced too) at a pretty furious pace throughout lockdown, most of the work was (relatively) short, individual pieces. Even in the situation of recording an album (like the two I did with Ross Milligan), the tunes were all dealt with one at a time and although the albums had an overall purpose, direction and unity they were made up of concise, and separate, compositions. Even the relatively ‘epic’ YouTube piece “Norwegian Journey” that I did with a great bunch of ‘Fusion’ musicians (on drummer Tom Gordon’s YT channel) still ‘only’ weighs in at 9:21! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ9nncupcWM

However, the new composition, had to a brief of ’15 to 20 minutes’ – quite big in the scheme of things! Starting a new piece is always a bit of a daunting task and finding a way ‘in’ is usually the tricky part. Many ‘sketches’ ensued and several avenues were explored (most of which were rejected!) and, somehow (the slightly mysterious part of the process) a core set of ideas took root and then the music, finally, start to flow. So, long story relatively short, as of 31st July I now have a completed an electric guitar concerto! It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to rehearse and perform this piece (the electric guitar is set in amongst a, fairly, traditional ‘classical’ ensemble – making the sonic contrasts a feature).

Alongside that, Ross Milligan and myself have been rehearsing and working towards a gig in the Borders in August and also looking at material for a third album (in lockdown we produced two complete albums and a EP of my suite for classical guitars “Silent Hope”).

https://malcolmmacfarlane.bandcamp.com/album/silent-hope-ep

More news from the JF team soon!!!

the electric guitar concerto was funded by the Creative Scotland Open Fund.

In the ‘Norwegian Journey’ pic, clockwise (from top left) we have: Tom Gordon (drums), Andy Mitchell (bass), Steve Hamilton (keys), Paul Booth (tenor saxophone) and Malcolm MacFarlane (guitar/composer/producer).

The beautiful photo for the “Silent Hope” artwork is by Pedro Vit – check out  www.unsplash.com for more of his work! (and more amazing work by other artists too!).

Fiona’s blog 14 May 2022

Lochwinnoch gig, partly funded by Scotland on Tour and part of the Lochwinnoch Arts Festival. To minimise petrol usage, Malcolm kindly picked me up, while Sophie fetched Marianne. The venue was Lochwinnoch Golf Club which is more or less south of Glasgow and a very beautiful part of Scotland.

The sun shone as Malcolm and I had time for refreshments at the picnic benches overlooking the beautiful greens, before the others arrived and the serious sound-check started. This took what felt like a very long time, and meant working with sound engineers who were new to us (and us to them). Again, the detail and care everyone put into this preparatory work was striking.

At the back of the room as the audience trickled in, I set up the merchandise stall and made friends with the delightful ladies who were organising the Arts Festival including the enthusiastic dynamo that is Morag. And it was a full house!! And what an amazing gig – so many congratulations all round! It was SO great to see the JF collective in action!! I can’t wait for the next one..

Fiona’s blog 6 April 2022

First actual F2F meeting after so many Zoom meetings over the last more than 1 year, with the JF collective: Sophie Bancroft, Malcom MacFarlane, Marianne McGregor and me!! At Sophie’s beautiful home in Pathhead, we had our first in-person rehearsal, and a delicious meal afterwards mostly thanks to Sophie, before doing our first gig!!

As a non-professional musician I was almost shocked at how much work went into the choosing and preparing of charts as well as the degree of thought and care that goes into the actual rehearsing. These are established, experienced musicians, and yet there is nevertheless such a lot of preparation to be done! The other striking things are the focus and intensity each musician brings to their performance as well as the considerable respect they (rightly) show towards each other.

It was a delight to be able to sit in the same room – off-screen – during Jazz Forward’s first gig: online, as part of Graham Steel’s Music Club. How miraculously it all came together and what absolute fun! At the end everyone looked tired and so happy; I hope I can offer useful input within this collective of such accomplished musicians!