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The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

Courtesy Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
Beginning at the tail-end of July, the Jazz & Blues Festival makes for a hugely civilized Festival warm-up before the chaos of the Fringe is unleashed. But, make no mistake, it's a major event in its own right - where over little more than a week, Edinburgh plays host to a truly world-class line-up of musicians, covering the broadest range of the style.

Alongside the well-attended (and, it must be said, fairly pricey) programme of concerts, the Jazz Festival organizes Edinburgh's very own Mardi Gras, down in the valley of the Grassmarket on the last weekend of July. With a short but colourful parade and hours of non-stop music, a packed house is guaranteed - just as long as the weather holds. The very next day, the chilled-out Jazz All Fresco brings easy-listening jazz styles back to the Grassmarket, with a whole afternoon of outdoor entertainment laid on for anyone who cares to stop by.

Indoors, the Festival takes advantage of its scheduling just before the Fringe to borrow some of the city's best venues: it's your first chance to peek inside the vintage, mirrored Spiegeltent, or to see the dramatic restored interior of the Hub. For such a short Festival, as well, the programme packs a lot in. Most venues host two or three concerts a night, and you'll need to be resigned to the reality that you can't possibly catch it all.

Sadly, the Festival's early dates mean that many visitors to Edinburgh will miss it - but if you're local or can manage to get here in time, there's no better way to wind down and get yourself in the Festival mood. Bear in mind, too, that the music doesn't stop once the Jazz Festival ends: there's a lot more on offer under the all-embracing auspices of the Fringe.

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