The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra will mark its 25th anniversary at one of its regular venues, writes Rob Adams.
As with musicians across much of the world, however, the ensemble will be live-streaming when it appears at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 5 December.
SNJO director, saxophonist Tommy Smith had hoped to tour during 2020 with American vibes virtuoso Joe Locke and singer Kenny Washington. After two postponements, these concerts are now scheduled for late April-early May.
Smith formed the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in 1995 as part of a plan for jazz development in Scotland. Having toured the world with vibes master Gary Burton and as a bandleader in his own right, Smith noted that many countries had a national jazz orchestra and most had at least one conservatoire level jazz course. Scotland, he felt, needed and deserved the same.
Both of these ambitions have now been met. The jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has been up and running since 2009 and with the earlier addition of his own youth jazz orchestra, Smith has seen a large number of high quality musicians emerging in Scotland. The latest evidence of this is saxophonist Matt Carmichael, a student on the RCS jazz course, reaching the recent BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 final.
“We’ve always created opportunities for new, young talents, as well as working with well-established names, in SNJO,” Smith says. “This anniversary concert will put the spotlight on three outstanding young players. Trombonists Anoushka Nanguy and Liam Shortall were winners at the Scottish Jazz Awards this year – Anoushka winning the Rising Star title and Liam winning Best Album and Best Band with his group corto.alto – and Kieran MacLeod has a great future as an arranger.”
The Perth concert will feature music from across the SNJO’s history. Items from the Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Miles Davis, Count Basie and Buddy Rich tributes the orchestra has staged will be included. The programme will also contain a Scottish element in Robert Burns’ My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose and part of the Culloden Moor Suite, which the orchestra recorded with its composer, the late Glasgow-born tenor saxophonist, Bobby Wellins.
“It’s a great pity that, during this special year for us, we’ve hardly been able to add to the orchestra’s live highlights, which have included performances at Ronnie Scott’s and at leading jazz festivals in the UK, Norway, France and the U.S.,” says Smith. “Because the essence of jazz is creating music in the moment.”
His aim with the live-stream from Perth will be to give the audience as close to the live jazz experience as possible.
“We’ll be observing social distance regulations, so we’ll line up further away from each other than usual but at the same time we’ll be relaying the immediacy and intimacy of a jazz concert.”
LINK: SNJO YouTube Channel