> Nu-Age Sounds – 3rd March, Queen’s Hall – Live Review - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Nu-Age Sounds – 3rd March, Queen’s Hall – Live Review

If there was any doubt that Scottish jazz music is having a rebirth, the curators of Nu-Age Sounds have well and truly quashed it. In a collaborative concert series hosted by Tommy Smith and his Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO), seven of Scotland’s brightest jazz musicians were invited to arrange a selection of their original compositions for the full ensemble to perform. The final concert of the series took place in Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, an apt roof under which to house the diverse group of audience members in attendance. The pews on both floors were filled with long-standing fans of the SNJO, while the standing area was overrun with a new generation of fans already invested in tonight’s special guests.

Taking to the stage first was Glasgwegian vocalist Kitti [main image]. Her deep tone and impressive range allowed her to float above the strong currents created by SNJO’s horn section, while adding interesting texture with falsetto riffs and guttural growls. Double bassist Ewan Hastie (2022’s BBC Young Jazz Musician of the year) continued with a delicate and contemplative arrangement of his song ‘On Reflection’. 

With each performer introducing the next guest onto the stage, there was a real sense of camaraderie cultivated between the artists. This continued when, in the absence of multi award-winning pianist Fergus McCreadie, a few of his compositions were sympathetically reimagined by Peter Johnstone, who more than proved his chops in one riotous solo bolstered by SNJO drummer Alyn Cosker. A few rollicking big band tunes by Tommy Smith himself closed the first part of the programme before we returned for a more groove-locked second half. 

Multi-instrumentalist (and the only female member of the evening’s ensemble) Helena Kay picked things back up, carving interesting shapes with breathy phrases and delicate articulation on her tenor saxophone. Trombonist and composer Noushy then brought up the energy with her tracks ‘Condiments’, ‘Whisper’ and ‘Clock Don’t Stop’ which introduced gorgeous Afro-beat rhythms into the mix, later to be built on by corto.alto bandleader Liam Shortall who performed larger than life renditions of tracks from his latest album Bad With Names. But before that party started, tenor saxophonist Matt Carmichael stunned audiences into complete silence (followed by extended applause) with quiet, emotive melodies that blossomed into big cinematic climaxes.

While there was clearly no shortage of talent on display in this three and a half hour showcase (which culminated in a joyous big group jam), sadly a glaring lack of non-male players in the SNJO was apparent. That being said, we mustn’t overlook the immense accomplishment of uniting inter-generational jazz audiences together in a mass celebration of Scottish musical talent. Based on the success of this event, pairing young jazz artists with more traditional institutions like the SNJO is a mutually beneficial endeavour well worth repeating.

snjo.co.uk

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