The Blender was a step away from any other Refreshers or RAG Week event. The elegance of the newly-reonvated Byre theatre set the ambience for an event of truly polished young musical talent, put together by Jazz Scotland and Fife Jazz week. Artists from all over Scotland – including St Andrews – gathered for a musical collaboration like no other. It was wonderful to have such incredible music brought here, rather than traveling to a city centre.
The layout was open plan into each theatre – making great use of 3 theatres and open areas of the venue, creating a great atmosphere. You could choose to sit down and watch, stand and socialise at the open bar, or get up and dance. While tickets may have been on the slightly expensive side for the student budget at £10, the value was definitely there when you consider 6 amazingly talented groups gathered in one place for one night. It was also a nice oportunity to be able to gather with the larger St Andrews community for an event.
The opening performance was provided by The Foo Birds – an 8-piece funk and soul group from Edinburgh. Vocals were sung by the powerful singer Kate Lister, the band kicked off the evening with a fabulous mix of soul and funk which set a great tone for the night.
Later in the evening, the soulful acoustics of Beth Macari echoed through the open atrium, and many enjoyed the open space of the artium to dance along. Backed by Nick Pride and the Pimptones, their style was a mix of funk, picked up by sharp twists of brass and rhytms, and mixed between smooth melodies as well as explosive jazz pieces.
Fat suit, performed as an impressively large, 15-piece fusion style ensemble, made up of both students and alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Strathclyde. This group were certainly not constrained by genre, whether it be jazz, rock or sonic- defining a single theme for their performance would be challenging. Filling the stage with a robustly constructed range of rhythms and transitions, and instruments from violins, saxaphones, guitars and audio mixers. The band provided vibrant stage presence with band members clearly enjoying their musical production as much as (or even more so than) the audience.
AJ Brown was almost definitely the heart throb of the night – yet another way in which he follows in the footsteps of Michael Bublé. AJ is a singer, songwriter and saxophonist from Halifax in England. His tones were original, upbeat and almost on the pop side of the jazz spectrum. His performance was interactive, lively and smooth. In addition to his performance, special credit must be given to his incredibly talented piano accompanist, Martin Longhawn.
DJ Andrea was an incredible live DJ performance, a slight variation to the rest of the instrument emsembles of the evening. Definitely a step away from the usual night club beats, DJ Andrea was refined, as well as energetic and technical. He’s recognised as one of Italy’s top 100 DJ’s and has appeared on many international labels.
Finally, St Andrews Fusion performed in the intimate setting of the upstairs theatre. These guys are an incredible polished group of St Andrews University students, who combine a mixture of funk, rock, jazz and fusion.
The event ran right through until 2am. Our beloved Byre is back and better than ever, and as last night proved, is still a versatile venue that can host amazing events like this and many more. I think more students at St Andrews would love to be given the oportunity to participate in such musical events in the future. Definitely a success for Fife Jazz festival and all musicians involved!
Photos courtesy of The Blender Facebook page.