The Blue Lamp will finally reverberate to the sound of applause again as the legendary Aberdeen venue welcomes back live audiences tomorrow, Thursday June 24
After 16 months of lockdown the Lampie will once its doors to music fans with a landmark show by VISTA.
Although the audience will be in strictly limited numbers due to social distancing rules it remains a momentous moment for the venue and the Granite City music scene.
VISTA will be the first of two jazz concerts with limited audiences – a maximum of 32 people – at the Gallowgate venue, with saxophonist Matt Carmichael confirmed for Thursday July 1.
In a major coup Jazz at The Blue Lamp will also co-promote a solo performance by Scottish jazz legend Tommy Smith at St Machar Cathedral on Thursday July 8.
It is hoped Live at the Blue Lamp can also promote an autumn series of shows to reduced live audiences.
Jazz at The Blue Lamp secretary Keith MacRae said: “Everyone is absolutely aching for the return of live music.
“We are delighted to welcome back people for live shows. It is fantastic. We are very interested, and excited, to see how it goes when we have a limited number of people back in the Lampie.
“There has been a lot of discussion and thought about when we would start again. We felt that we should do a couple of trial gigs with strictly limited audiences.
“We initially did eight streamed gigs and after the last one on May 20 held off to see if we could finish the season with a couple of live ones.
“We are hopeful we will be back with at least a limited audience season in the autumn.”
Challenging lockdown for The Blue Lamp
The return of audiences will mark a major step forward for Jazz at The Blue Lamp chiefs and the venue after an extremely challenging 16 months.
Venues across the United Kingdom were shut down in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first hit and there have been no shows in front of audiences in Aberdeen since then.
The world-renowned Aberdeen Jazz Festival, with many of the shows at The Blue Lamp, was in full flow last March when the coronavirus forced organisers to call off the remaining concerts.
Sadly Aberdeen music legend Sandy Brown, owner of The Blue Lamp, passed away the following month.
Keith said: “When we took down the curtain on the Aberdeen Jazz Festival last year on March 15 I did wonder if we would be back in The Blue Lamp. Especially with Sandy Brown sadly passing away after that.
“The Blue Lamp houses a lot of independent music in Aberdeen and all of us involved in the scene were really concerned as to what might happen.
“We were absolutely delighted when we heard Lewis, Sandy’s grandson, was taking it over with Paddy Buchanan (events manager) very much involved in the events side of things.”
Landmark concert in front of fans
The first show at The Blue Lamp in front of an audience will see guitarist Graeme Stephen showcase his new band VISTA where he is joined by Fraser Fifield (whistles, sax, kaval), Brodie Jarvie (bass) and Stephen Henderson (drums).
Expect original and exciting music from a unique band that meld jazz with a traditional Scottish sound.
Keith said: “The two shows at The Blue Lamp are VISTA and the following week saxophonist Matt Carmichael.
“It is Carmichael’s quartet with Charlie Stewart who is a traditional fiddler and was the young traditional musician of the year in 2017.
“Both of these bands will have a slant towards a fusion of Scottish traditional music and very modern jazz.
“We are looking forward to it as we have done a lot of this kind of music with Scottish musicians such as Colin Steele and also Norwegian musicians.
“It is very much along the outlook we take with regards to the broad sweep of jazz.”
Streamed shows reaching New Zealand
Jazz at The Blue Lamp adapted to the tough and uncertain times of lockdown by producing a series of online streamed gigs.
The catalyst for these online shows which offered a much welcome glimpse of normality for jazz fans was the Aberdeen Jazz Festival earlier this year which moved online during the lockdown.
Following the success of those shows Jazz at The Blue Lamp subsequently produced a series of online streamed concerts including the Phil Bancroft Trio, NOUSHY 4TET, Hamlet, The Fraser Urquhart Trio, Rose Room and the Alyn Cosker Trio.
Keith explained: “During lockdown, The Blue Lamp and Jazz Scotland, who organised the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, invested in cameras and video equipment for streaming gigs.
“It meant we could broaden our resources and allow us to do Jazz at the Blue Lamp and Aberdeen Jazz Festival streaming gigs online after we have recorded them.
“The streamed gigs were done under strict conditions without an audience.
“Both the Jazz Festival and Jazz at the Blue Lamp were very grateful to Creative Scotland for giving us backing to stream the gigs while we were in lockdown. That made a difference in being able to keep ourselves out there.
“When we streamed the Jazz at the Blue Lamp gigs we had responses from as far afield as California, the Far East and New Zealand. It is amazing how things pop up.”
Unique solo show by jazz legend
Jazz fans can also watch Scottish saxophone great Tommy Smith play an intimate solo show at St Machar Cathedral on Thursday July 8.
Smith has played numerous concerts for Jazz at The Blue Lamp ranging in styles from free, improvisational jazz to trad. Every concert has been unique and superb.
Earlier this year Smith streamed a closed-door show at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh where he performed the music of free jazz pioneer Albert Ayler, arranged by Geoffrey Keezer.
Keith said: “We are all excited about Tommy’s show. His gig with Pete Johnstone (pianist) that we recorded for the Aberdeen Jazz Festival was magnificent.
“Tommy has produced a lot of good stuff in lockdown as well. He streamed Where Rivers Meet which was four streamed gigs from St Giles last month.
“They were all great and Tommy is very much up with the different forms of presentation. Years ago we saw Tommy at the Islay jazz festival in the Round Church in Bowmore doing a solo gig and it was compelling.”
Jazz community must work together
The coronavirus lockdown has impacted live music venues, musicians and promoters hard.
However, Keith believes one positive to emerge from these challenging times is music communities have become more collaborative and unified.
He said: “If there is good coming out of this it is that people have learnt a bit more to work together. We are a small community.
“There is an ever-increasing number of really talented musicians and lots of young talented musicians, But not enough promoters and not enough gigs. It has made us think a bit more laterally.
“Initially in trying to make the scene stay together and then on how we can project it in the future.
“One of the ways we can do that is by greater exposure online. The online aspect is here to stay and people have really got to grips with that in lockdown.”
To apply for tickets for VISTA, e-mail email@example.com with your name, mobile number and the number of tickets required.
No tickets will be for sale at the door. Maximum group bookings of six from three households. There will be 2m between tables, with table service only.