NZ Musician

Formed by drummer John Rae, The Troubles are a standout band that stretches beyond what most would think of a jazz ensemble.

Sure, there are saxophones, trumpets, bass and drums, but in this iteration of the band flute, clarinet, violin, viola and cello are also involved in the joyful sonic anarchy.

The sound that arises from the various groupings that occur in the group’s arrangements is eclectic and reminiscent of the 1960s Charles Mingus Band and the experimental Third Stream bands of the same period.

Their music comes out of those sound worlds, expanded with influences from European, Balkan and Middle Eastern folk music, all tweaked and melded into their own sonic landscape.


Against the odds New Zealand Jazz is rapidly becoming identifiable as a separate and interesting entity.  Perhaps a subset of the Australasian-Pacific Jazz sound.  On the best Kiwi albums and in the clubs I hear this certain something and I want to confront the musical establishment and say, “Are you freakin deaf…can’t you hear this”? This thing is ours, it can be wonderful and it is certainly worthy of proper attention. New Zealand music is very diverse and this is a healthy thing. Original and exciting bands are continually being formed, but in order for this vibrancy and originality to flourish the music must be better supported. John Rae has created here an album that exemplifies this diversity and it says something unique about us and our place in a sometimes troubled world. Support the band, buy the album but above all relax and enjoy it.  I defy anyone to dislike this roller-coaster ride through the worlds troubled spots.  It is a journey undertaken with deep humanity but also with a liberal helping of humour throughout.   A warm echo derived from the cacophony about us and filtered through an anarchic but sharply focussed Kiwi lens.

The Guardian

With the growing of Scotland's nationhood, so to has grown its creative identity, and in the area of jazz, a fresh, new vibrant sound has arrived. John Rae's Celtic Feet use jazz as a base, original compositions that use traditional motifs and jazz harmony to create a distinctly Scottish sound where free improvisation and traditional Celtic music each has an equal voice.


The Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD


Mr Rae used to run a jazz collective  around Edinburgh which at times seemed the only bulwark north of the border against trad, funk and light jazz. Edinburghers-and Irvine  Welsh  readers - will understand a title like 'Power Of The Radge', a celebration  ofin-your-face, up front thraw -ness. No one will mistake the sheer rhythmic  power of Rae's small band. Anchored  by pianist Kellock and light-toned  bassist  Caribe, it weaves a complex  rhythmic and textural spell, from the unexpected stride opening to the astonishing  rhythmic coup of the closing 'Slumber Jack' - 17/16 indeed!

Thoumire's  mournful concertina  and the now patented saxophone  sound of Phil Bancroft, who is more familiar in company with drummer brother Tom behind him, provide the spot colour, but it's Rae's ideas and sheer punch that make this such an engaging record. Hard to categorise (as is possible the intention) but, as the election  celebration  of 'May 7th' underlines, full of the confidence  of a country and a music reinventing  itself.


From the Scottish Parliament SCOTLAND CULTURAL PROFILE.  

One of the other musicians who appeared on Smith’s debut recording, also aged sixteen, was the drummer John Rae (one of the aforementioned Ronnie Rae’s six offspring), who went on to contest Smith’s dominance of the Scottish jazz world in the late 1980s as leader of the John Rae Collective. This sextet was a key breeding ground for musicians who subsequently came to prominence in their own right, including pianist Brian Kellock, saxophonist Phil Bancroft, trumpeter Colin Steele and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie, all of whom are active in multiple projects both as leaders and sidemen.

Another of John Rae’s early ventures was the Giant Stepping Stanes, who broke new ground in combining elements of modern jazz with Scottish folk music, an area of cross-fertilization that has since expanded steadily and fruitfully, not least through the work of Rae’s current outfit, Celtic Feet.

The Guardian

This inimitable ensemble, led by Scottish drummer John Rae and featuring the excellent pianist Brian Kellock, continues on its path of uniting its homeland's traditional music with the sounds of the wider world. Rae has been a driving force behind the most progressive developments in Scottish jazz in recent times, yet his sense of his own tradition (Jimmy Shand gets a name check on this disc) is as strong as his sense of adventure and the result is a remarkably integrated display of eclecticism, full of surprise and wit. Hearing Brian Kellock bring the pumping piano rhythms of Fats Waller's stride style to the accordion -and -fiddle theme of Boogie Celt, or Phil Bancroft's insinuation of an initially moody and then soul-jazzy soprano sax line into the reel-like feel of Sing for Your Fish Supper provides some glimpses of what Rae's music is about, as does guitarist Kevin Mackenzie’s Grant-Green like rhythmic groove against the prancing squeezebox theme of Easy Peasy. Rae nods wonderingly to an all-night session he once spent with Indian traditional musicians in Ragabond, a delicately rippling Ornette Coleman lament floating in and out of the mercurial undertow of the tablas. There's a Metheny-meets-Garbarek feel to the mid-tempo groovier Coty, and a bleary late-night sing-along atmosphere to the concertina/bass duet La Limpiadora Irlandesa. Anybody familiar with Droothie Maggie will find some fascinating surprises in Celtic Feet's mutation of it. As for Eilidh Shaw's slow violin lament on Shawland, it's a spine-tingler.




The Scotsman


YOU wouldn’t have heard it at Ronnie Scott’s. As sax player Julian Arguelles expounded soulfully, the rest of drummer John Rae’s rumbustious folk-jazz big band murmuring behind him, pipers started wandering, droning, into the hall, until there was a full pipe-band, drummers an’ a’, crammed onto an already packed stage. 

It might have made for an aural nightmare, but as the Islay pipers broke into a reel, to be peremptorily answered back by the Big Feet horns, the whole thing became a rather wonderful, uncontained yell of massed brass and reeds. 

Strange and wonderful things happen in this little-explored territory where jam meets rant. There was Brian Kellock’s no-nonsense boogie, escorted by a swirl of sax and accordion, bringing in Rae’s smaller, Celtic Feet sextet for a sparking, sizzling opening set. There was Neil Gerstenberg, later to give us a fine, loose-limbed sax solo, warbling soulfully on that well-known jazz instrument, the penny whistle. And there was American trumpeter Warren Vache (aka Sporran Washy), looking bemused to find himself both be-kilted and reeling alongside full-tilt fiddler Eilidh Shaw, before tearing a full-throated solo out of the situation.

As many as 19 Big Footers took the stage at one time, flexing their hybrid muscles with joyful exuberance - brass belling out over a taut mandolin line before erupting into yet another reel. Gentler-toned moments too, such as Findlay Macdonald’s low whistle calling soulfully over a drift of horns and stalking double bass, before things proceeded, via a punchy little number titled Sectarianism and the Loch Ness Monster, towards the high and heady commotion of a conclusion which was still in riotous encore as I left to meet the deadline. 

I counted them out - more or less, reckoning around 40 musicians on stage during his finale - and I counted them in again. No casualties, although there may have been some shell-shock cases among front-row listeners: that blast of sound ... those unaccustomed kilts.

Jazz Times


John Rae's Celtic Feet are six musicians who have loyalty to tradition mixed with a passion to experiment and improvise creating a new sound to accompany a new millennium. John Rae is an accomplished jazz drummer who has been studying traditional fiddle for many years, and with this new group, presents a new collection of compositions that incorporate his knowledge of traditional and jazz music. 

The Scotsman


John Rae's Celtic Feet began in 1998, with the assistance of the Scottish Arts Council, and incorporates Scotland's finest jazz and traditional musicians. Brian Kellock, one of the most respected jazz piano players in Europe, Phil Bancroft, sax, from the cutting edge of the European avant-garde scene, Eilidh Shaw one of the leading young violinists in Scottish Traditional music, Mario Lima Caribe hails from Brazil and is the bassist with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Simon Thoumire, currently one of the most adventurous young concertina players in the world who was the composer for the music for the Opening of the New Scottish Parliament, John Rae plays drums and writes the music. John Rae is the drummer with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and one of the founding members of the Scottish Composer's Jazz Ensemble. Leader and composer for the John Rae Collective, John Rae's Celtic Feet and the Power Of Scotland Big-Big Band and he is a prominent member of the Brian Kellock Trio.


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