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Lead guitar in 1970s and 80s rock fusion band Soft Machine, long term collaboration with Stéphane Grappelli (following in Django Reinhardt’s footsteps), duos with classical guitarist John Williams, founder of the Zappatistas dedicated to keeping alive the music of Frank Zappa and a long and distinguished career as a leading jazz guitarist are just some of the many reasons why appearances by legendary musician John Etheridge in Shetland next week are highly significant events.

Concert dates, all starting at 19.30

  • Friday 22 October, Aith Hall – £10/8 – John Etheridge & Ben Ferguson
  • Saturday 23 October, St Columba’s Church, Lerwick (da Big Kirk) – £12/10 – John Etheridge & Harris Playfair Big Band Project
  • Sunday 24 October Busta House, Brae – £10/8 – John Etheridge & Ben Ferguson

In a collaboration between Shetland Arts and Shetland Jazz Club as part of the Peerie Willie Guitar Season, Etheridge will perform a series of concerts in Aith, Lerwick and Brae. The concert season comprises a monthly visit by a world-class guitarist to celebrate the life and legacy of late local guitarist Peerie Willie Johnson. Last month saw performances by Ian Bairnson and Jim Mullen. Upcoming concerts include Lulo Reinhardt Quintet on Wednesday 24th November and the Michael Janisch Quintet on 17th December.

Next Saturday’s concert at St Columba’s Church in Lerwick will feature a special collaboration between the guitar legend Etheridge and The Harris Playfair Youth Big Band. The group comprise some of Shetland’s finest young musicians who fuse traditional Shetland, jazz and a range of eclectic influences under the guidance of Playfair to produce a unique and full sound. The group first played at this year’s Fiddle Frenzy with a line-up 23 musicians. This time, the group will be in a smaller format of around 12 performers including saxophone, piano, trumpet, fiddles, flute and drums. These events are part funded by the Scottish Arts Council/Creative Scotland Jazz Development Fund.

Friday’s concert at the Aith Hall and Sunday’s at Busta House, Brae, will feature a support slot by young guitarist Ben Ferguson from Walls.

It is fitting that Etheridge performs during the Peerie Willie Guitar Season since the two appeared together on the BBC1 documentary series “The Shetland Sessions” recorded during the 1991 Shetland Folk Festival. The pair played a rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose” when Willie performed alongside “Danny Thompson’s Whatever”, a group of whom Etheridge was a member.

Etheridge’s Shetland ties continued when his acclaimed 2004 solo album “I Didn’t Know” was produced by Shetland recording engineer and Filska guitarist Andrew Tulloch.

Guitar season poster
Guitar season poster

John Etheridge has been at the top of the jazz and contemporary guitar world for 25 years. He was first touted by the music press in the early 70s while playing with a number of progressive rock and early fusion units (most notably Darryl Way’s Wolf – producing three albums for Decca). In 1975 he was offered the chance to replace Allan Holdsworth in the legendary jazz-fusion group Soft Machine. International touring and recording followed until the band’s demise at the end of the 70s. More or less simultaneously (starting in 1976) Etheridge joined the touring group of the celebrated jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. For a number of years these two commitments ran parallel – revealing the broad range of his abilities. Etheridge left Grappelli’s quartet in 1981. For the last twenty years he has pursued a career involving associations with many of the great players of the jazz world. Either in single concerts, touring or recording he has appeared with – Barney Kessel, Didier Lockwood, Nils Pedersen, Gordon Beck, Herb Ellis, Mundell Lowe, Vic Juris, Miroslav Vitous, Birelli Lagrene, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Williams, Yehudi Menuhin, Pat Metheny, Andy Summers, Nigel Kennedy (an association now in its seventh year), and is currently rehearsing a new group formed by the great classical guitarist, John Williams. In the late 80s, Etheridge started to lead his own bands and is currently fronting a quartet dedicated to Stephane Grappelli, as well as an eight-piece group, Zappatistas (performing the music of Frank Zappa) and also leads a trio with the legendary drummer John Marshall.

Peerie Willie Guitar Season is sponsored by Research Fishing Co and High Level Music.

Tickets for all concerts are available from Shetland Box Office, Islesburgh, Lerwick – 01595 745 555. Tickets can be reserved on the phone for collection at the venue on the night.

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