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Bebop Spoken There

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - Gateshead Jazz Festival

Tommy Smith, Konrad Wiszniewski, Paul Towndrow, Martin Kershaw, Bill Fleming (saxes). Ryan Quigley, Cameron Jay, Richard Iles, Tom MacNiven (tpts). Chris Grieve, Phil O'Malley, Michael Owers, Lorna McDonald (tmbs). Brian Kellock (pno), Graeme Scott (gtr), Calum Gourlay (bs), Alyn Cosker (dms).
Picture left is by official Sage photographer Mark Savage and is not for use in events unrelated to The Sage.
Most people that I spoke to, including myself - yes I talk to myself - had reservations about the wisdom of including Rhapsody in Blue in a jazz festival programme. The same people probably questioned the validity of last years pairing of Guy Barker with the Northern Sinfonia and look how wrong they proved to be!
Ah yes! they exclaim but that concert was Duke Ellington based - a man of much greater jazz credibility than George Gershwin.
Enter Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and, after Tommy had paid a moving tribute to the late Chris Yates, the band struck up and all misgivings were blown away.
This was, quite simply, the finest big band concert I'd ever been to since those Halcyon days when Basie, Ellington, Kenton or Herman seemed to be forever here.
This was no bravura performance by Oscar Levant but featured Brian Kellock who took Gershwin's tune down some mean streets that George didn't know existed.
And, unlike the original, Tommy Smith's arrangement opened it up to a host of soloists including himself who let rip at least thrice. There was an amazing trumpet battle between Ryan Quigley and, I think, Tom MacNiven (actually Cameron Jay!). This was mind-blowing - JATP plays Rhapsody in Blue. For me Ryan and Paul Towndrow were the undoubted number ones of The Festival appearing in so many different settings.
But great as all the soloists were - Konrad Wiszniewski (ten), Martin Kershaw (alto) also had extended moments as did a couple of trombones - it was the writing that did it.
So varied and imaginative - at one stage a mambo-like rhythm lifted the tension to such an almost unbelievable high I wanted to jump into the aisles and shout "OO!"
Follow that next year Roz!
Talking about 'following that' - the second set tribute to Buddy Rich proved to be slightly anti-climatic -  Buddy's band at its height would have been hard-pushed to follow what had gone on previous. This is no disrespect to Cosker as Alyn is no mean drummer himself but, for me, I suppose it was the familiarity with the originals - every school, youth, rehearsal band in the country plays Love For Sale - and nothing new was really added. Likewise Buddy himself did West Side Story to death so although it was all done immaculately it proved to be a downer after Rhapsody.
But nevertheless, on the strength of that first half alone, this concert will remain in my head for years to come...


Russell said...

Hi Lance

Agreed. The first set proved to be the better of the two. That said, what a concert!


Liz said...

great picture & perfect lighting for Rhapsody... wish I could have been there, but second best was the excellent reviewing from Lance & other contributors

Anonymous said...

The trumpet duet was between Ryan Quigley and Cameron Jay

SR said...

Lovely review, spot on. Thirded about that first half (most disappointed they didn't play it again after the break, as Tommy joked.) Swing de Force from Kellock and a note perfect treat from Tommy's boys.

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