Sandy Brown Jazz

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Jazz As Art

Kevin MacKenzie

If A Tree Falls


When you listen to music, you sometimes conjure images in your mind. Our Jazz As Art series invites you to listen to a piece of jazz and as it plays, scroll down the page and see which of the pieces of art I have chosen comes closest to the pictures in your mind. Hopefully, this will introduce you to recordings and art works you might not have spent time with before.


Kevin Mackenzie The Ballad Of Future Joe


Guitarist, composer and bandleader Kevin MacKenzie lives in Scotland. Kevin  has been working within the world of music for a number of years now. His passion for jazz and traditional Scottish music stems back to his childhood where his father, although a physicist by profession, played alto sax, clarinet, whistles, mandolin, guitar and pipes. For Kevin, the instrument he was most drawn to was the guitar. "I was sent to classical guitar lesson with John Williams (not that one) in the basement of Gordon Simpson’s music shop," he says, "and then when I was at Broughton High School, I was active in the music department and used the new facilities (stereo Reel to Reel with variable pitch) to transcribe some of the music I was starting to take an interest in".

At a party, Kevin met fellow Broughton pupil Colin Steele, they started talking about Jazz and set about getting some gigs around Edinburgh.  Back in the basement of Gordon Simpson’s music shop Kevin studied Jazz Harmony, Improvisation and Bach Chorale’s Kevin Mackenziewith guitar teacher Neil Munro.

In 1987 Kevin won “Best Young Musician” at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. He went on to join the newly formed John Rae Collective that included Brian Kellock, Phil Bancroft, Colin Steele, Kenny Ellis and John Rae and enrolled at Leeds College of Music. A busy few years followed; he toured Czechoslovakia and Canada with the John Rae Collective and started working with Tom Bancroft’s Orchestra. In 1990 he completed a Post Graduate Diploma  in "Advanced Jazz” at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before forming the Kevin MacKenzie Quartet, featuring Julian Argüelles on saxophone.


Kevin MacKenzie


 In 1991, Kevin moved to New York where he played with many up and coming and established players while also studying briefly with John Abercrombie; went to Barry Harris's Jazz workshops and started a residency at 'The Rooster' Bar'.

On his return to Scotland in 1992 he resumed work with his quartet and received an “SAC” grant for rehearsal and development of the band. Kevin’s interest in traditional folk music led to the formation of 'The Giant Stepping Stones' band playing traditional Scottish music. Most of the band were best known as jazz musicians but were all keen to developed their traditional playing.

Over the following years, Kevin was part of a variety of bands including the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and then in 2001 Kevin received the prestigious ‘Creative Scotland Award’. The award brought £25,000 which Kevin used to write and record music for his nine-piece band ‘Kevin MacKenzie’s Vital Signs’. The album received rave reviews including ‘album of the month’ in The Observer and CD of the week in The Guardian. Since then, Kevin has played, toured and recorded in the UK and internationally.

Kevin teaches guitar privately as well as being a regular tutor at the Tolbooth in Stirling; at the faculty on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Jazz Degree course; on the Scottish Music degree cours at Strathclyde University; has been working at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland since 2006 and is a lecturer on the Jazz Degree and Masters course set up by Tommy Smith since its first year. He has also been teaching Harmony and Composition classes on the Scottish Music course Kevin Mackenzie Triowith the view of sharing his experience and knowledge gained from working in many traditional and cross genre projects. Much more can be found about Kevin MacKenzie on his website (click here).


Kevin MacKenzie Trio in performance at the Edinburgh International Festival.


Kevin’s most recent album The Ballad of Future Joe was released on the 1st March with Mario Caribe (bass) and Alyn Cosker (drums).

Kevin explains the intriguing title: "My son Finlay, who is a constant source of inspiration, knew a boy called Joe in his class. Joe had shoulder length blonde curly hair. One day a few years ago while walking home an older boy with similar hair walked past us. Finlay tugged my arm and said “Daddy .. that’s Joe... from the future”.

With our thanks to Kevin, here we share the track If A Tree Falls from the album. The title is something of an enigma. All music brings a personal reaction from the listener – what does this track bring to you? – for Kevin, he comments that he has trouble with social media – “If a tree falls and nobody likes it on Facebook, does it really exist and  is it socially relevant”.


Now, play the tune and scroll slowly down through the pictures I have chosen to go with the music (I think this only works if you spend time with each painting). See what you think.






Barbara Snyder


Barbara Snyder Fallen Tree





Randall David Tipton


Randall David Tipton painting





Alan Kay


Alan Kay Logs





Jim Sisley


Jim Sisley Faceless Crowd





Gunta Stölzl


Gunta Stölzl weaving






Heather Day


Heather Day Guitar






Sheri Chakamian


Sheri Chakamian Argentine Tango






Pakhal Tirumal Reddy


Akhal Tirumal Reddy painting





Arthur Rakham


Arthur Rakham Fairy Ring





Alfred Gockel


Alfred Gockel Lowdown Bass





Paul Signac


Paul Signac painting






Wendy Lovoy


Wendy Lovoy Drummer






Sachi Yamabi


Sachi Yamabi Stick Pile






Gary Bevans


Gary Bevans Mushrooms on Log






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Other pages you might find of interest :

More Jazz As Art
Video Juke Box
Tracks Unwrapped
Name That Tune

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