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Next weekend sees the return of Shetland Arts’ Peerie Willie Guitar Festival, and as always has a healthy dose of jazz guitar in the mix.

Guitar Season 2010
Guitar Season 2010

Now in its seventh year, the festival pays homage to Shetland guitarist Peerie Willie Johnson, whose pioneering use of jazz styles are now widespread in Shetland music.

The full programme of events can be found here.

As well as the festival weekend, which runs from 17th to 20th September, this year there will be a whole season of concerts throughout the autumn, with a visiting guitarist making their way north each month.

This year’s festival weekend concerts are being held in Symbister, Sandwick and Lerwick, as well as educational workshops in schools, with music from some fantastic artists including another of Shetland’s world-renowned guitarists, Ian Bairnson.

Originally from Levenwick and now based in Spain, Ian grew up in Edinburgh before becoming probably Shetland’s most successful rock guitarist.

He is perhaps best known for being part of bands such as the Alan Parsons Project and 1970s hit makers Pilot, but throughout his career has played with a veritable who’s who of artists from a wide genre of music, including Paul McCartney, Kate Bush (he played the guitar solo on her number one hit ‘Wuthering Heights), Mick Fleetwood, Sting, Tom Jones and many others.

His innovative and fluid playing has been likened to that of guitar heavyweights Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour.

Ian, who has said his playing was definitely influenced by Peerie Willie, said he is looking forward to playing at the festival and that it will be “special.”

He said: “I can tell you that I always look forward to "comin' hame", but to play in front of my ain’ folk is special.

“I miss Willie because I always, always visited him – still, I have plenty stories about our early sessions and friendship.

“This will be the first time I will have played a set without a band, an acoustic set, and a lot of musical styles that I'm not generally associated with. In short, I have the typical Shetland appreciation of all kinds of good music.”

Ian Bairnson
Ian Bairnson

Another visiting guitarist is jazz musician Jim Mullen. The Glasgow-born London based jazz guitarist is described as having a distinctive fusion style, and picks with the thumb rather than a plectrum.

Winner of awards including best guitar in the British Telecom Jazz Awards Best Guitar for 1994 and 1996, in the Post Office Jazz Awards 2000 and in the Hamlet Cigar British Jazz Awards 2002, he started his musical career aged 8, when he got his first guitar.

In 1975 he met sax player Dick Morrissey and began a 15-year association that produced seven albums and became one of Britain's top club bands. After the demise of the Morrissey Mullen duo he worked with jazz vocalist Claire Martin and formed a series of quartets.

Now in his sixties, Jim has built up an impressive repertoire. As a sideman he is in demand by visiting U.S. stars like Gene Harris, Mose Allison, Jimmy Smith, Weldon Irvine, Percy Sledge, Teddy Edwards, Plas Johnson, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Terry Callier.

The festival weekend gets started on Friday night with a concert in Symbister Hall, Whalsay, where Jim Mullen will play, supported by local jazz guitarist Norman “Girsie” Goudie and his All Stars. The same night, Ian Bairnson will play a homecoming concert in Sandwick at the Social Club, with support from Hot Club de Fladdabister, a group that features well-known musicians Brian Nicholson and Maggie Adamson.

Saturday’s concert at the Town Hall will see both the visiting guitarists on the same concert bill, together with a solo spot from Brian Nicholson.

Bar facilities will be available at each of the concerts.

Jim Mullen
Jim Mullen

Sunday evening will round off the festival weekend with a chat show style “An Evening With…” event at the Garrison Theatre where the festival performers will share anecdotes, demonstrate playing techniques and share a tune or two on the stage.

All events start at 7.30 and tickets priced £10 (£8 concessions) are available from Shetland Box Office, Islesburgh Community Centre, Lerwick  - 01595 745 555

Shetland Arts music development officer Bryan Peterson said, “Each year we try something different to keep the format fresh, and Sunday’s  ‘An Evening With…’ will provide a chance for the performers to give an insight into their backgrounds and unique playing styles. There were so many guitarists who wanted to perform this year we decided to offer local audiences a whole season of top class guitar concerts”

Upcoming Peerie Willie Guitar Season concerts include John Etheridge (22 to 24 October), the Lulo Reinhardt Quintet (Wed 24th November) and the Michael Janisch Quintet (17 to 19 December).


Ian Bairnson

Jim Mullen

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