THRILL! Jazz from Brussels

After contemporary art, contemporary dance and the circus arts, it’s now the turn of Brussel’s jazz scene to put the spotlight on the creative talent in our capital.

“In recent years, more and more jazz bands have been emerging in Brussels. A thriving scene made up of young talents such as Antoine Pierre, Jean-Paul Estiévenart, Melanie De Biasio and Esinam Dogbatse coupled with leading figures such as Aka Moon or Philip Catherine illustrates the creativity and mix on show in Brussels. Not to mention the legend of Brussels jazz, Toots Thielemans who put Brussels on the map with his contributions on several legendary albums by great American stars. Edinburgh, a city known internationally for its cultural life and Jazz Festival, which welcomes thousands of visitors every year, has a large network of venues and partners in the area, which will allow our artists to perform in prestigious locations, have the pleasure of playing with Scottish musicians and broaden their audience,” Rachid Madrane, Minister of Promotion of Brussels at the Wallonia-Brussels Federation

For this 4th edition, the spirit remains the same, to make Brussels shine by highlighting its artists. Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is renowned for featuring extraordinary musicians based on their outstanding performances, rather than their name recognition in Scotland. As they survey the jazz world, they are amazed by the quality of some European jazz scenes, and it’s a thrill to offer a very special snapshot of one of the most exciting places for jazz in 2019: Brussels.



Belgium has played a key role in jazz history. The iconic jazz instrument, the saxophone, was created by a Belgian – Adolphe Sax – and Django Reinhardt, the Belgian guitarist, was the first non-American, to be a major international jazz star and to almost single-handedly created a European jazz style – gypsy swing – that endures to this day. There have been many Brussels jazz greats, from Phillip Catherine to Toots Thielemans, but nothing to match the current crop of brilliant musicians.

From Thursday 7 February to Saturday 9 February 2019, Thrill presents twelve concerts that highlight the best of the new Brussels jazz scene in some iconic Edinburgh venues: The Queen’s Hall, The Jazz Bar, St Brides Centre and on the High Street.



Thrill kicks off in the Queen’s Hall with a celebration of the music made famous by the Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt with a thrilling five-star international Gypsy Swing double bill featuring Les Violons de Bruxelles + Rose Room. Led by violin superstar Tcha Limberger, Les Violons de Bruxelles are an all-string swing orchestra playing gypsy music with virtuosity, verve and panache. Fronted by Seonaid Aitken, Rose Room, re-create the excitement of Rive Gauche Paris where Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli set alight the jazz clubs of the 1930s and 40s.

The programme at St Brides also includes double headers, with STRATA + Antoine Pierre URBEX, two young bands at the forefront of the new jazz scenes in Belgium and Scotland. On Saturday, saxophonist Toine Thys Trio, featuring guest guitarist Hervé Samb, are paired with leading Scottish group Colin Steele Quintet. Later Brussels jazz legends, Aka Moon, feature opposite Laura MacDonald’s History of Sax.



The Jazz Bar programme kicks off with a Scottish/Belgian Sextet featuring three musicians from each country: the Thrill Sextet play in double bill followed by Mâäk quintet. Piano jazz features with Oriental Jazz Project + Martin Salemi Trio. ESINAM delivers hypnotic, dance-floor beats with a spiritual jazz feel. Brandhaard and Echoes of Zoo deliver exciting contemporary jazz, one with a New York feel, one with eclectic influences.

The High Street is the setting for an extraordinary outdoor performance on Saturday 9 February. Thrill the City features steaming gnaoua drums. Moroccan percussionists and red-hot saxophones will create a carnival of rhythms. The three performances are free and last 20 minutes.