Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Soak up the Sounds at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

01 July 2014

Lounging in a wooden booth of a century-old Belgian travelling dance hall, glass of wine resting in your hand, the sultry sounds of an up-and-coming jazz vocalist wash over you. Stumble unexpectedly into a procession of over 500 brightly costumed dancers, musicians and circus acrobats, filling the streets with colour and sound or pay tribute to Nelson Mandela in spectacular surroundings on Mandela Day, listening to the musician who played at his inauguration.

You'd be forgiven thinking these are the tales of a seasoned world traveler, collected over a lifetime of trips. But you'd be wrong.  All these and more are here in the Scottish capital, at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, a 10 day extravaganza that fills the city with the bustle of music and those who love it - a magical and uniquely Edinburgh experience.

An old jazz  and blues favourite

The Edinburgh jazz festival began in 1978, set up by a banjo-player and guitarist who put on free performances of traditional jazz in local pubs. As festivals in Edinburgh tend to do, it grew rapidly, adding ticketed events and a more diverse range of musical styles, as well as the now iconic free outdoor events. The festival is now a highlight of Edinburgh's calendar, nestled between the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the August festival season, making sure our summers of fun never slow down.

Fantastic venues across the capital

Spread across Edinburgh in some of the city’s favourite venues, as well as pop-up locations like the gorgeous aforementioned Spiegeltent, you can even use the jazz festival as a way of exploring Edinburgh.

Head down to the Grassmarket on Saturday the 19th of July for Mardi Gras, a series of outdoor concerts – dance with the band or grab an al fresco beer at a nearby pub and let the music provide a soundtrack for the summer sun.

On Sunday the 20th, the Edinburgh Festival Carnival is the 500-strong parade from the Mound to the West End of Princes Street, a riot of fun for the whole family. Night owls can’t miss out on descending below street level to The Jazz Bar, an Edinburgh institution, where festival performers mingle with the stars of the local jazz scene for regular jam sessions throughout the festival.

The best jazz and blues artists from across the globe

The festival's focus is on finding the best music from around the world to bring to our beautiful city, with plenty of artists playing the UK for the first time, making its concert a wonderful opportunity to experiment and find something new. Settle down in the Speigeltent to be wowed by rising roots rock ‘n’ roll star Nikki Hill, or discover one of Scotland’s leading women saxophonists, Leah Gough Cooper, in a converted church. Stars abound as well, so keep an eye out for old favourites: Van Morrison, Jools Holland and former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman are just some of the names who are sure to draw huge crowds to the bigger venues.

Above all, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival is about letting yourself go with the flow, to the sound of the music that is made of that attitude. So get ready to hit the pavements and groove, bop and jive your way around the festival city.

The Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festivals runs from the 18th to the 27th of July. View the full jazz and blues programme and book tickets at their website.

Copy supplied by our friends at Edinburgh Festivals:

Here's a quick taster of what's on this year's Edinburgh Jazz Festival.