CD Review: Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra – Emergence

Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra – Emergence
(Spartacus Records STS016. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Ten years on from its foundation (June 2002), Tommy Smith’s Youth Jazz Orchestra continues to give the best possible introduction to the world of jazz to successive batches of young Scottish musicians.

The quality of the playing on this album can be gauged not only by the fact that all five winners of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year competition (est. 2007) are present in the band’s ranks, but more importantly, that they negotiate a wide-ranging repertoire with verve, precision and considerable aplomb.

Material from the heart of the big-band canon (Ellington’s ‘In a Mellow Tone’ and ‘Mood Indigo’, Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Take the “A” Train’, the Motens’ ‘Moten Swing’, the Davis/Feldman classic ‘Joshua’) is interspersed with slightly more recherché fare (Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Michelangelo’, Tommy Smith’s feature for tenorist Joe Wright ‘Numbers’) and the odd escape from the rock world (‘Black Friday’ from the Steely Dan songbook), but it is the alternately punchy and crooning ensemble work, the cogent soloing and, above all, the sheer exuberance of the band’s overall approach that impresses throughout this rousing programme.

Much more than just an incubator for its illustrious and acclaimed elder relative, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (though many members do progress to the senior outfit), the TSYJO is a considerable creative force in its own right, and plays a vital role, perfectly documented on this wholly enjoyable album, in what is a burgeoning jazz scene north of the border.


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