Excerpts from issue 44/19 8 July

coovan

Heather, one of four Coovans belonging to Visitscotland parked itself in the grounds of Bowmore Distillery on Tuesday past. The object of the exercise is to encourage Scots to have a 'staycation' and visit other parts of their own country.

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Kilchoman grows in size
kilchoman distillery

Ardnahoe might well be Islay's ninth distillery, but the island's eighth isn't standing still and resting on its laurels.
After purchasing Rockside Farm, Kilchoman distillery is in the process of upgrading by way of a new malt floor and kiln. This will allow an increase to five tonne batches of malted barley, a greater volume of which is now grown in the surrounding fields.
According to manager Islay Heads, this has allowed Kilchoman to increase the production volume of their 100% Islay single malt, a product unique to the island.
It is hoped that work will be completed by September of this year.

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West Islay Tidal Energy Park

Further to the recent announcement of a proposed tidal energy park off the south west coast of Islay, the Ileach contacted Ireland based DP Energy for further details.
They told us that, in partnership with Bluepower NV, itself a partnership between DEME Blue Energy and utility investor, Nuhma, they were "delighted to be awarded consent by Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, for the 30MW West Islay Tidal Energy Park project."
The Government's consent will now allow them to site tidal turbines, including a sub-sea electrical cable to export the power to landfall on Islay. This will be an important step in the overall project.
There are of course a number of technical challenges to be considered and overcome before any construction works commences, given the nature of the sea conditions off Islay's west coast. As the project progresses these will hopefully be addressed, involving a more detailed assessment of the overall project. This will include a review of current tidal technology options, and identification of the turbines best suited to the site conditions.
There will also be assessment of a detailed sub-sea cable route and construction process along with revisiting the onshore connection options. Once this assessment has been completed DP Energy will be "looking at the best methods of disseminating that information and the findings of our assessment to the local community and local interest groups."
According to the DP Energy spokesperson, this is likely to include updates via the Ileach, the Community Council and through further public open day events on Islay when appropriate.
The initial announcement indicated that the energy park, when completed may result in the creation of up to 32 new jobs. When asked if any of these would potentially be based on Islay, the spokeperson told us, "Where possible we always endeavour to keep jobs local and to the best of my knowledge, that position hasn't changed, since DP Energy lodged their original Environmental Statement including Socio-economic impacts back in 2013.
"With regard to the turbines, it all depends on the selected technology. If the turbines are mounted on the seabed then there will be minimum opportunity for local jobs as specialist vessels will be required to recover and deploy the devices. If however the units are accessible locally, then we would look to carry out operation and maintenance activities from Islay."
He went on to say that until they have carried out further assessments it wouldn't be possible to predict jobs and local content.
However, finally, DP Energy intimated, "We and our partners look forward to engaging with the Islay Community and providing further updates as the project progresses."

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Embodying the Light - Tommy Smith Quartet

brian palmer writes:
tommy smith quartet John Coltrane was an American saxophonist born in 1926 and who tragically died of cancer in July 1967, almost exactly fifty years ago. He first came to prominence as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet in the mid 1950s before going on to form what is often regarded as the 'classic' jazz quartet featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison on bass and the irrepressible Elvin Jones on drums.
His influence on saxophonists and ultimately jazz itself was arguably greater than that of his own idol, Charlie Parker. There is often strong feeling that, after Coltrane's untimely death, jazz spread sideways rather than continuing the forward momentum initiated by Coltrane himself, diluted by the advent of rock, pop and eventually fusion. However, Coltrane's influence often seems every bit as forceful today as it was in the late 1960s.
If evidence were required to support this contention, witness the upcoming release on 17 July (the 50th anniversary of Coltrane's death) of the Tommy Smith Quartet's 'Embodying the Light - A Dedication to John Coltrane'. Recorded over a single day in April of this year, Smith is accompanied by drummer Sebastiaan de Krom, and Scots musicians, bassist Calum Gourlay and pianist Pete Johnstone, who collectively have produced quite possibly the finest jazz recording of the decade, bar none.
Consisting of five interpretations of Coltrane originals, along with a surprising and stunning rendition of Gershwin's 'Summertime', Smith has interspersed three of his own original compositions.
Apparently the recording was made with no prior rehearsal; "I wanted the interaction to be as special as your first kiss." said Smith in a recent interview. It seems the strategy worked and possibly even better than the four musicians had thought possible. You'd be forgiven for thinking these gentlemen had played together for years. I do not pretend that 'Embodying the Light' isn't a 'difficult' recording, possibly requiring as much effort on behalf of the listener as that of the band; if your taste leans more towards Coldplay, Adele and Beyoncé, this quite likely isn't for you. That said, there's an inherent groove that suffuses each and every track; accepted with an open mind and on its own terms, it is a veritable and incredible tour de force. This is entirely in keeping with the spirit of Coltrane, who was never known as a contender in the 'easy-listening' stakes, once described as playing 'sheets of sound' during the later years of his career.
Quite frankly, the quartet's reading of 'Naima' is one of the finest I have ever had the pleasure of hearing, while the title track exhibits a combination of both swing and funk, particularly from both Gourlay and Johnstone that belies their comparative youth. Though it's unashamedly a recording that underlines the accomplished saxophone playing of its leader, Smith is not selfish with the surrounding space. Pete Johnstone's piano playing in particular is quite simply stunning, whether describing an intricate accompaniment, or let loose as a soloist. De Krom too is the perfect accompanist, moving comfortably and seamlessly in and out of both swing and Elvin territory, yet ready and willing to stake his own claim in proceedings.
For those of you familar with the Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and 60s, this is the modern embodiment of that era.
Tommy Smith is perhaps best known to Islay through his infrequent appearances at the Lagavulin Islay Jazz festival and via performances with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. I fervently hope that Jazz Scotland are able to bring this quartet to a local stage this September, by which time my iPod will have worn a deep groove where 'Embodying the Light' is stored.
Truly wonderful.

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 22 July 2017

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Islay Diary 2017

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