Award-winning saxophonist Helena Kay’s KIM Trio plays at the Merchants House in West George Street on Sunday, April 2 as part of a tour to promote their latest album, Golden Sands.
The album has had both praise and plays from radio presenters in Canada, the US, Australia, and Ireland as well as in the UK. One Italian magazine even went as far as to place Golden Sands among the best of current jazz.
“That’s very flattering,” says Kay. “But the coverage that has touched me most was the programme in Atlanta that used Xian Impressions from the album as the bridge between its tribute to the great Wayne Shorter, who died earlier this month, and the new music on its playlist.
“Being considered good enough to follow Wayne Shorter is quite a compliment.”
Although still in her twenties, Kay has been impressing knowledgeable jazz observers for close on ten years now.
Richard Michael, the indefatigable director of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra was always keen to feature Kay as a teenage soloist.
Then, in the final of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year in 2015, the judges, including one of Scotland’s greatest ever jazz musicians, the late saxophonist Bobby Wellins, selected Kay as the winner.
Perth-born Kay went on to win the much-coveted Peter Whittingham Jazz Award in 2017.
Having graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London the previous year, Kay used the cash prize from the Whittingham Award to finance the recording of the KIM Trio’s first album, Moon Palace.
I can’t wait for the tour to start. We’re playing all over Scotland, including Shetland, and it’s the first time we’ve played in the Merchants House, so we’re really looking forward to that one.
A period spent living, working and studying in New York followed. Kay took advantage of having access to top players, including Chilean saxophone star Melissa Aldana, Dayna Stephens, Chris Cheek and Rodney Green to take lessons with them.
The music on Golden Sands drew its influences from the places Kay has called home - Scotland, London and New York.
It was brought to fruition by the new-look KIM Trio (Kay, Calum Gourlay, replacing the original bassist, Ferg Ireland, and Dave Ingamells on drums) with the addition of Kay’s long-time colleague and friend, pianist Peter Johnstone, who will be on the tour.
“Pete and I seem to have been either in the same band or pursuing the same goals forever,” says Kay. “He won the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year title three years ahead of me.
“Then we played in the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra at the same time. Now he’s in my band, which is really a quartet rather than a trio and we’re both also playing with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.”
Kay and Johnstone also play as a duo and have a duo date in Linlithgow on Friday, April 14 after the KIM Trio tour.
“I can’t wait for the tour to start,” says Kay. “We’re playing all over Scotland, including Shetland, and it’s the first time we’ve played in the Merchants House, so we’re really looking forward to that one.”
- Jazz At The Merchants House presents Helena Kay's KIM Trio. Tickets are available here.