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Scottish National Jazz Orchestra : (‘Where Rivers Meet’, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, 29 Sep- 1 Oct)

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra have announced a new season of concerts that will see the internationally acclaimed ensemble spanning 100 years of jazz history. Presenting music from their “In the Spirit of Duke” tribute to Duke Ellington’s orchestral output of the 1920s-to-the-1950s through to current rising star singer Georgia Cecile and pianist Gwilym Simcock, the SNJO will play concerts across Scotland between 29 September and International Jazz Day on 30 April. Rob Adams writes about the opening events of the SNJO’s season.

Konrad Wiszniewski playing at the May 2021 premiere of Where Rivers Meet.
Photo credit: Derek Clark

To open the 2022-3 season, the SNJO takes the vital, soul-stirring music from its latest, enthusiastically received album, “Where Rivers Meet” to the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on 29 September, Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen on Friday 30 September and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 1 October.

Recorded in a single session at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Where Rivers Meet celebrates the music of four saxophonists whose work reflected turbulent times in America during the 1960s, including the civil rights struggle, and whose legacies continue to grow seven decades on.

“Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton and Dewey Redman were regarded as mavericks when they emerged on the scene yet many of their own compositions and pieces with which they were associated drew on the blues and gospel music and have passed into the standard jazz repertoire,” says saxophonist and SNJO artistic director, Tommy Smith. “Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman, for example, is played by jazz students and jazz musicians the world over.”

Where Rivers Meet consists of four specially arranged suites, each dedicated to one of the four saxophone heroes, and has drawn praise from across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. In reviewing the original streamed version of Where Rivers Meet, London Jazz News’ own Mark McKergow described it as “breath-taking music” (link to full review below).

The forthcoming concerts will feature Tommy Smith himself as soloist in the Albert Ayler suite. Fellow saxophonists Konrad Wiszniewski and Martin Kershaw pay homage to Dewey Redman and Anthony Braxton and altoist Adam Jackson, a graduate of Tommy Smith’s Youth Jazz Orchestra, steps up as feature soloist in the Ornette Coleman suite.

“These new, powerful orchestrations were written by long-time associates of the orchestra, Geoffrey Keezer, Paul Harrison and Paul Towndrow, and myself,” says Smith. “There are intricate elements as we negotiate orchestrations of what were essentially smaller band compositions but it’s not a step into the unknown. Familiar themes including the ballad “The Very Thought of You”, the spiritual “Goin’ Home” , which informed Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and even “When the Saints Go Marching In” all feature. We have a ball playing “the Saints” and hope the audiences will enjoy it as much as we do.” 

LINKS: Album review of Where Rivers Meet by Mark McKergow

Review of the Premiere in two parts : PART ONE / PART TWO

SNJO Where Rivers Meet page with BOOKING LINKS for Edinburgh / Aberdeen / Glasgow

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