The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has released a video of a Robert Burns song to mark the band’s absence from its habitual gig at Ronnie Scott’s on the birthday of Scotland’s national poet (25 January). Rob Adams writes:
Available free on the SNJO’s YouTube channel, the heartfelt instrumental version of My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose was recorded during the orchestra’s 25th anniversary concert last month and features SNJO director, saxophonist Tommy Smith, in an arrangement originally written for Scottish singer Eddi Reader by American pianist-composer Geoffrey Keezer.
“For the past three years on Burns Night, we’ve taken Scottish music and musicians onto the stage of one of the world’s greatest jazz clubs,” says Smith. “We obviously can’t continue that custom this year, so this is our way of toasting the bard, as Burns is known in Scotland, and giving SNJO fans a token of our appreciation for their support simply by clicking on an internet link.”
Burns wrote My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose in 1794, just two years before he died, and is said to have written it for his wife and muse, Jean Armour, to sing. It’s one of over three hundred songs attributed to the poet including the world famous Auld Lang Syne and love songs such as Ae Fond Kiss.
My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose is one of Burns’ most popular songs and has been recorded by baritone saxophone master Joe Temperley, the Fife-born Scot who replaced the legendary Harry Carney in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and worked with Woody Herman and Wynton Marsalis, as well as by singers from Jo Stafford to Lesley Garrett.
“We see this video as a tribute to the power of the word in general while also paying homage to Scotland’s national poet,” says Smith. “Every year on 25 January, people all over the world remember, celebrate and recite Burns’ poetry, which is testament to the lasting quality of his work. And although his words are not included in this version, the lyrics to the song were in my mind as I played it, as should be the case when you’re conveying a melody associated with great poetry.”
The video is the fifth in a series of ‘singles’ by the orchestra that Smith has issued during the Covid pandemic as a way of connecting with the SNJO’s audience while public performances are out of the question.
“We’ve had to reschedule, re-reschedule and re-re-reschedule concerts, as all musicians have,” says Smith. “We’ve tried livestreaming but that’s not ideal, so the next concert we broadcast is likely to be pre-recorded. We’ll be announcing details quite soon but in the meantime we hope people will enjoy our Robert Burns tribute.”