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Five of the best acts to catch at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2015

George Benson
Photo: Greg Allen

The programme for this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival has been announced, with a strong contingent of household names and jazz purist choices coming to Edinburgh between 17 and 26 July. Expect 150 shows from established venues like the Festival Theatre, Queen’s Hall and Tron Kirk to a Spiegeltent on St Andrew Square, the Grassmarket for Mardi Gras and Princes Street Gardens for the showpiece carnival. Here, we’ve attempted the impossible and slimmed the programme down to five top choices.

BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert – Festival Theatre, Fri Jul 17
A multi-faceted celebration of Sinatra’s work in the centenary year of his birth, expect to hear interpretations of songs like Come Fly With Me, I Get a Kick Out of You and New York, New York from the BBC Big Band Orchestra in collaboration with US soul singer Curtis Stigers and ‘Frank ‘n’ Ella’ duet partners Todd Gordon and Jacqui Dankworth.

Person to Person – Queen’s Hall, Tue Jul 21
Although Dundee’s Average White Band still tour under the direction of Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre, this new band featuring fellow founders Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan (tenor saxophone) and Hamish Stuart (guitar and vocals), as well as long-standing drummer Steve Ferrone, will reunite for the first time since the group’s 1983 split to play the classic 1976 album 'Soul Searching' in full. Also featuring a full horn section for added authenticity.

Songhoy Blues - St Andrew Square Spiegeltent, Wed 22 Jul
A group of refugees from northern Mali who came together to form a band drawing influences from traditional sounds and Western R’n’B and rock and roll when they fled their country, quartet Songhoy Blues first came to prominence when they appeared amidst the African contingent on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express album. Their album with fellow conspirator on that record Nick Zinner (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) as producer followed earlier this year, and now an Edinburgh audience gets to experience them live.

Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – Festival Theatre, Sat Jul 25
Familiar to many for his BBC2 live music anthology show and the seemingly perma-touring R&B Orchestra’s frequent jaunts around the country, former Squeeze pianist Holland’s jazz, blues and boogie-woogie odyssey will this time welcome an even more special guest than the many he’s already roped in over the years – former Soft Cell vocalist and latterly theatrical torch singer Marc Almond. Also featuring the mightily-voiced Ruby Turner.

George Benson – Festival Theatre, Sun Jul 26
Making his first appearance at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, Pittsburgh jazz guitarist turned crooner of smooth soul ballads and upbeat funk-pop numbers of the 1970s and ‘80s George Benson (pictured above) takes one of the starring roles this year. Aficionados will enjoy his playing, while fans will get to hear hits from a repertoire which includes Give Me the Night, On Broadway, Never Give Up On a Good Thing, Turn Your Love Around and The Greatest Love of All.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, various venues, July 17-26.

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