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Keyboard star returns to festival to bury demons

He’s the local boy made good, although Peter Vettese, ever-ready with a self-deflating bon mot, would describe himself more as a local boy made gone.

 And disappear was exactly what Vettese -- internationally regarded keyboard player, songwriter and record producer -- wanted to do during his last appearance in festival-time Edinburgh in 1979.

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A difference of opinion off-microphone with the star of the show, the recently deceased blues singer Tam White, resulted in Vettese being ironically introduced as “the superstar” and being told afterwards that he’d never amount to anything without White to guide his career. “I remember it all too clearly,” says Vettese, who plays this year’s jazz festival with another well-known singer. “The audience wanted to kill me and I just wanted the stage to swallow me up. Tam was probably in the right as regards our argument, although I wasn’t going to admit that at the time. It was one of those situations where, as a professional musician, you should just shut up and play. But it was also an extraordinarily accurate prediction on Tam’s part because I have never amounted to anything.” There he goes again with the self-deprecation. What actually happened was, shortly after this incident, Vettese answered an advertisement in Melody Maker, in which  a “name band”  was seeking a keyboard player. He applied, sailed through the audition and promptly found himself in rehearsals for an album and world tour with prog rockers Jethro Tull, with whom he worked into the mid-1980s. Aftre Tull came stage and studio work with Annie Lennox, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Carly Simon, the Bee Gees, Foreigner, Simple Minds and Go West. More recently he has been working with Boyzone, singer-songwriter Leddra Chapman and former Spice Girl Mel C, who will be joining him onstage tomorrow. “My musical interests are a lot wider than the pop scene where I earn my living,” he says on his break from recording the new Mel C album. “I still enjoy playing jazz standards on the piano at home and I always suggest to the young singers I work with that they listen to the vocal A team: Bobby McFerrin and Kurt Elling.” After flying to Los Angeles recently to pick up an award for Proud, the London Olympics theme song that he co-wrote with Heather Small, Vettese looks forward to his jazz festival appearance as a chance to return physically, if not nostalgically. “The musician I was back then has gone,” he says. “My natural instinct is always to move forward, so I’ll be bringing an entirely new set of music for acoustic piano, with probably some element of technology, and looking to create something that has meaning for me and keeps the audience interested.” Peter Vettese, with special guest Mel C, plays Assembly@Princes Street Gardens tomorrow as part of Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.

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