Review from THE SCOTSMAN

18th Sep 2007

A wee nip of this well-matured island festival leaves a warm afterglow

Published Date: 18 September 2007



THE combination of a scenic, sea-girt setting – ringed by seven single-malt distilleries – with a discerning selection of Scottish and international artists has proved a winning one for the Black Bottle Islay Jazz Festival, the ninth annual outing of which at the weekend drew its now-customary crowd of loyal regulars, as well as numerous first-timers from the island and elsewhere.

There’s something about leaving the mainland behind that seems peculiarly conducive to the festival experience, of whatever musical hue, and that sense of distance from daily concerns is wonderfully easy to come by on Islay, with the drives between concerts parading its ever-changing panoramas of land and water, sunlight and shadow. The particular flavour of each show is heightened by the diversity of local venues, from cosy village halls to working distillery sheds, the 18th-century former laird’s house to the new Gaelic college.

One-off shows during the weekend included something of a damp squib late on Friday from Edinburgh-based jazz/funk/hip-hop crew Live Sciences, whose lumbering, repetitious riffs were unleavened by stilted, frequently unintelligible rapping and largely mediocre solos. By contrast, up’n’coming Dumfriesshire-born saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, currently studying at the prestigious Berklee College in Boston, enhanced her burgeoning reputation with Saturday’s arrestingly assured and sophisticated set in Port Ellen, her authoritative, atmospheric playing and inventive original compositions complemented by excellent work from her three-piece band, in particular some sparkling interplay between guitar and electric bass.

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