SCOTTISH NATIONAL JAZZ ORCHESTRA
tommy smith brian kellock
Spartacus Records STS013
Release Date: 8th June 2009
"taking Gershwin full-bloodedly into the modern era" The Herald
"TOMMY Smith is not one to do things by half measures." The Scotsman
★★★★★ IRISH TIMES
★★★★★ THE INDEPENDENT
★★★★ THE SCOTSMAN
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra's Rhapsody in Blue takes George Gershwin's classic jazz age concerto on an unprecedented adventure.
Re-orchestrated by SNJO director, saxophonist Tommy Smith, this Rhapsody in Blue of the twenty-first century was written to feature Scotland's world-class jazz pianist Brian Kellock, who played the original Rhapsody as a music student in Edinburgh in 1981.
Familiar themes, including the iconic clarinet glissando and Gershwin's heartbreaking nostalgic refrain, have been used - respectfully - as source material and reworked into a fifty-two minute epic that flows through exciting up-tempo movements, rhapsodic blues passages, a sensational Cuban fantasia and hard swinging jazz choruses, showcasing SNJO's magnificent ensemble playing and top class, creative soloing.
THE INDEPENDENT PHIL JOHNSON
★★★★★ (5 stars)
Heard at the Brecon Jazz Festival three years ago, this seemed an absolute model for big-band projects, with Tommy Smith's re-orchestration of Gershwin's original played with love and passion by a very young group, and piano soloist Brian Kellock showing his genius for differing idioms throughout.
The recording (from Edinburgh's Queen's Hall) takes a few minutes to get going but once you dig in, there's a continual round of treats as the hour ticks by. The standout is Smith's brilliant invention of an Afro-Cuban section, horns blazing.
THE SCOTSMAN KENNY MATHIESON
★★★★ (4 stars)
THE long-awaited second release from the SNJO features a performance recorded on the opening night of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in 2006. Tommy Smith led the band in his new arrangement of George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, with Brian Kellock as a superb piano soloist. To say arrangement, though, doesn't give the true measure of Smith's inspired re-working of this well-loved piece.
Clocking in at close to three times the length of the original, the saxophonist's version delivers an initial surprise by discarding the famous opening clarinet glissando (saved for later in the piece), the first of a host of original touches. While much of the added length is devoted to excellent soloing from all across the band, the new ensemble writing is equally compelling.
THE IRISH TIMES
★★★★★ (5 stars)
In tackling Gershwin's perennial, tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith took it into the jazz arena and rescored it for a standard eight brass, five reeds and four rhythm big band. He also reworked and re-ordered the original's sequence, and introduced a long closing section based on Gershwin's I Got Rhythm changes. Radical though the alterations are, they keep the original's spirit; the imaginatively referenced main themes are unifying elements in a performance more than three times the length of the original. It's a triumph for Smith, who is magisterial both as orchestrator and player. Other bright spots are pianist Brian Kellock's great links, an array of fine soloists, and the SNJO's aplomb with a demanding score that embraces blues, Cuban rhythm, stride, and some wry humour amid the high seriousness. In style, it's closest to the Buddy Rich big band; more to the point, there are no longueurs.
martin kershaw clarinet, alto saxophone
paul towndrow alto saxophone
tommy smith tenor saxophone
konrad wiszniewski tenor saxophone
bill fleming baritone saxophone
ryan quigley trumpet
paul newton trumpet
tom macniven trumpet
linsey mcdonald trumpet
chris greive trombone
michael campbell trombone
michael owers trombone
lorna mcdonald bass trombone
graeme scott guitar
brian kellock piano
calum gourlay acoustic bass
alyn cosker drums