It’s a busy three months ahead for tireless saxophonist/educator/bandleader Tommy Smith and his crew of Scottish jazzmen as he leads the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra on three tours to mark the ensemble’s 20th anniversary. The calibre of whichhighlights just how far the stellar big band has come, from unfunded pipedream to world-class ensemble tackling all manner of works frequently in collaboration with international star guests.
On this note, their celebratory program is no exception. This weekend sees the first of orchestra’s tribute concerts to Billy Strayhorn, perennial arranger for Duke Ellington, who quietly penned many jazz classic including ‘Take the A Train’ and the lush ‘Peer Gynt’ explorations. Then fast-forward to May where American vocalist Kurt Elling takes Sinatra for a spin in honour of the Rat Packer’s centenary on the SNJO’s ‘Swings Sinatra’ programme. This is followed shortly after in June by the premier of SNJO’s ‘Alba’, a suite of Scottish songs featuring singer Eddi Reader.
Strayhorn dates are The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (20 Feb); The Buccleuch Centre, Langholm (21 Feb) and Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow (22 Feb). SNJO and Kurt Elling dates are: Sage, Gateshead (20 May); Caird Hall, Dundee (21 May); Music Hall, Aberdeen (22 May); Usher Hall, Edinburgh (23 May) and City Halls, Glasgow (24 May). The ‘Alba’ concert tour with singer Eddi Reader takes place in June in the Highlands and Scottish Islands.
For more info go to snjo.co.uk/
– Tommie Black-Roff