Rising Aberdeen five-piece, Hamlet, are the latest act to emerge from a vibrant Scottish jazz scene and are to release their debut album.
To mark Act One’s launch – an album of entirely original compositions – the band will headline a show at the Blue Lamp on Friday January 18, along with a number of special guests.
Formed in May 2016 Hamlet was a coming together of musicians at Aberdeen University who originally played traditional jazz music.
Pretty soon they began to evolve and create their own material, which is an exciting mix of jazz, Afro-beat, traditional Scottish music, rock and hip-hop.
Their live performances focus heavily on improvisation, but not at the expense of providing a beat that audiences can dance along to.
Hamlet are Matthew Kilner (saxophone), Gavin Hunter (trumpet), Finley Campbell (bass), Richard Glassby (drums) and Neil Kendal (guitar).
Matthew explained: “We were members of the university jazz society and began by playing big band music but moved on to write our own material.
“Eventually we got booked to do gigs playing our own music.
“Part of our influence comes from the modern London scene which is influential around the world with bands like Ezra Collective and Sons of Kemet.
“When we play live there are always improvised solos in our pieces but everything has to have that dance feel to it, people need to feel that pulse.
“It is not overly technical.”
Act One will be released on January 18 and was set down at Caribou Recordings in Penicuik on the outskirts of Edinburgh under the guidance of producer Mattie Foulks.
The studio has been used for recent recordings by artists including Blue Rose Code, Kris Drever, The Unthanks and Karine Polwart.
Guitarist Neil continued: “There are jazz influences there but a big part is improvisation.
“Our sound is very Afro-beat but we also have rock and traditional Scottish music influences as well.”
It is fitting the band should launch the album at The Blue Lamp as the venue has been fundamental to the rise of jazz in not just the Granite City but Scotland.
The Live at the Blue Lamp nights on Thursdays are legendary and recently attracted renowned musicians such as saxophonist Tommy Smith, awarded an OBE for services to jazz, and legendary Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen.
Matthew said: ”Every Thursday night there is a series of shows where professional musicians come from all over the world to play the Blue Lamp.
“A lot of them say how great the Blue Lamp is and they all hold it in very high regard.
“We have played there since we were at school and the owner, Sandy Brown, loves music and has supported us for years.
“If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
As an early preview to Act One the band recorded a video for album track Chip In The Wall.
Directed by Louise Kendal it includes scenes of Hamlet at various locations in the Granite City including Union Street, the Green, Marischal Square and outside The Tunnels club in Carnegie’s Brae, before footage of a live concert ends the film.
Neil said: “We try to do as much as we can for the local scene through the university.
“There are a lot of young players coming up at the minute who have started their own bands and are showing an interest in jazz.
“Aberdeen is not the biggest place so we are trying to promote music here.”
Hamlet are among a wave of genre defying Scottish jazz musicians currently making waves. One of their major influences, the London based Sons of Kemet, include Aberdonian drummer Seb Rochford who has been nominated for Mercury Music awards with Basquiat Strings, Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland.
Matthew said: “There are so many great players emerging in Scotland, it comes in waves.
“We recently did a feature with pianist Fergus McCreadie who was in the BBC Young Jazz musician final a few weeks ago.
“Fergus has his own band and does a lot of Scottish traditional music.
“It is a strong scene at the moment.”
The emergence of genre-splicing jazz bands bending styles within Scotland has ensured anything goes both on record and live.
Neil said: ”The band we have supporting us at the Blue Lamp is Karma For Vandals who are not a jazz group, but three of the musicians definitely play jazz.
“They play instrumental rock material but they are a fusion band as well.”
Hamlet will be joined on stage at the launch show by two special guest vocalists who will also appear on the album.
Neil said: “We have a couple of guests playing with us on the night.
“Jackal, who is a rapper, and was nominated for an SAMA (Scottish Alternative Music Award).
“He has a great Scottish rap vibe and will guest on about three or four tracks on the launch gig.
“Jackal is also on a track on the album which is one of my favourites. It feels like old school hip hop which is why I like it.
“We will also play with Nadya Albertsson who is originally from Sweden but is now based in Scotland.
“Nadya is a jazz singer who was in the semi-final of Youth Scottish artist of the year last year and she is absolutely fantastic.
“She will sing on three or four songs as well and is also on the album on a track called Sunset Sunside.
“Nadya is definitely one to look out for.”
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