b. Edinburgh, Scotland. Guitarist Kevin MacKenzie played jazz in Glasgow and Edinburgh, becoming deeply associated with the John Rae Collective. This influential band in the new wave of Scottish jazz generated considerable interest and a host of new talent in the 90s and beyond. With John Rae, MacKenzie toured Canada and Czechoslovakia as well as various venues in the UK. Concurrently, he was studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music, and was awarded a post-graduate diploma in Advanced Jazz. In 1991 he formed the Kevin MacKenzie Quartet for appearances at that year’s Glasgow and Edinburgh international jazz festivals. Featuring saxophonist Julian Argüelles, the quartet also toured but at the end of the year, MacKenzie made an extended visit to New York, playing with many notable figures including John Abercrombie. Back in Scotland from the spring of 1992, MacKenzie resumed his UK jazz playing. In the middle of the decade he also played folk music in a trio led by concertina player Simon Thoumire. With this group, he toured Finland, Belgium, Canada, and parts of the USA, and recorded March, Strathspey, & Surreal. Subsequently, MacKenzie and Thoumire both worked with traditional Scottish fiddler Eilidh Shaw and guitarist Malcolm Stitt. In 1994, MacKenzie formed the Cool Groove, a six-piece funk band with Colin Steele (trumpet), Phil Bancroft (saxophone), David Milligan (keyboards), John Speirs (bass), and Iain Copeland (drums). The unit’s repertoire was drawn largely from MacKenzie’s own compositions and was eclectic in its influences. After about two years, this band evolved into Swirler. MacKenzie also formed Trio AAB, with Phil Bancroft and his twin brother, drummer Tom Bancroft. With Trio AAB, MacKenzie combined his interests in jazz and folk, the latter form brought bang up to date with the use of backing tapes, synthesisers and computer-generated sounds.
Among other musicians with whom MacKenzie worked in the mid- to late 90s were saxophonist John Burgess, Benny Carter, Tommy Smith, Bobby Wellins and Kenny Wheeler. He has also played with Tom Bancroft’s big band. Together with fellow guitarist-composers Ged Brockie, Nigel Clark and Malcolm MacFarlane, MacKenzie formed the Scottish Guitar Quartet. The group’s repertoire draws upon jazz and classical as well as world music and Celtic folk themes. In 2002, MacKenzie was recipient of a Scottish Arts Council grant for the composition of ‘Harmony Diversity’. This ensemble piece, played at its Glasgow premiere by his nine-piece group Vital Signs, blends jazz with folk, contemporary pop and retro swing. The band’s personnel similarly blended musicians from different forms: accordionist John Somerville, violinists Aiden O’Rourke and Christopher Stout, saxophonists Phil Bancroft and Martin Kershaw, pianist Chick Lyall, bass player Tom Lyne and drummer Tom Bancroft. Striking technical accomplishment allied to clear thinking that allows him to fully explore his concepts, MacKenzie has become a significant figure on the UK jazz scene in general and especially so in Scotland.