Photo: Derek Clark
Tommy Smith is helping to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. Rob Adams reports:
Saxophonist Tommy Smith has been invited to give four concerts at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh this year as part of the venue’s fortieth anniversary celebrations (QH@40).
Smith, who was appointed OBE for services to jazz and education in this year’s New Year Honours List, is revisiting his 1996 commission for Glasgow Jazz Festival, Beasts of Scotland, for the first concert, which takes place on Thursday 18 April. “Beasts” will feature a sextet which comprises Smith alongside Andy Panayi (saxes) and Tom Gordon (drums) from the original recording plus James Copus (trumpet), and Pete Johnstone (piano) and Calum Gourlay (bass) from Smith’s current quartet.
The Queen’s Hall, a former church on Edinburgh’s southide, opened in 1979 and quickly became associated with top line jazz attractions, initially through the trailblazing Platform organisation and then through hosting Edinburgh Jazz Festival and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra concerts and its own in-house promotions.
Among the many significant musicians who have appeared there are Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, George Russell, Wynton Marsalis and the Gil Evans Orchestra. Smith, who grew up in Edinburgh, has played there many times – singer Kurt Elling remembers going to see him play at the Queen’s Hall when he was studying at the University of Edinburgh in the late 1980s – and he celebrated his 21st birthday at the venue with a concert featuring him alongside Chick Corea and Gary Burton.
Following the Beasts of Scotland concert, Smith will feature in his duo with pianist Brian Kellock, with special guest, leading Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes on 13 June. His widely acclaimed ‘Coltrane’ quartet, Embodying the Light, appears on 17 October and he gives a solo saxophone concert on 19 December. All concerts feature support by groups and musicians who have come through Smith’s youth orchestra and the jazz course he initiated at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.
“The Queen’s Hall has been a regular venue for me throughout my career,” says Smith. “I can remember aspiring to play there as a young musician and it’s been a pleasure to work there with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s many guests – Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Benny Golson et al – as well as my own bands and with Arild Andersen’s trio. It feels like going home when I step through the door and I’m looking forward to being back there so often this year.”