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Friday, January 04, 2019

CD Review: Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - Peter and the Wolf.

(Review by Lance)
There was a time when "Jazzin' the Classics" was regarded with a degree of scorn or at the very best, condescension. My late mother, herself an accomplished pianist with letters after her name would shudder when I played Art Tatum's version of Dvorak's Humoresque, albeit admiring his technique. 

Since then, attitudes have become more tolerant and I'm sure, were she alive today, she'd have appreciated the jazzified classical pieces that have entered the jazz canon such as The Nutcracker Suite, Peer Gynt and The Planets. 

What do they all have in common? - Ellington.

Tchaikovsky, Greig, and Holst composed the originals but, thanks to Ellington they have, over time, achieved recognition as major jazz suites.

Duke recorded the first two, Pete Long scored the third for the Echoes of Ellington Orchestra and now SNJO supremo, Tommy Smith OBE has arranged and orchestrated Prokofieff's [sic] Peter and the Wolf, whilst still retaining an overall Ducal feeling. 

It's an intriguing, at times dramatic piece, beautifully arranged and with some impressive piano moments from Makoto Ozone.

Recorded live at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, The whole thing is held together by Tam Dean Burn's reading of the respected Scottish poet and playwright Liz Lochhead's adaptation of the original text. Burn's narration is done in broad Scot's dialect that even I - but a few miles south of Hadrian's Wall - struggled at times to fully comprehend. However, repeated listenings soon overcame the language barrier and before long I was chuckling away as well as enjoying the absolutely superb arrangements by jazz's latest OBE. No extended solos but, apart from Ozone, we had trillings from Yvonne Lockwood and clarinet cat characterisations from Martin Kershaw.

In time, it will surely and deservedly rank alongside the great works mentioned earlier although I'm not sure how the Americans (and the Londoners) will cope with the broad Scottish brogue!
First 5 star review of the year!
Lance
Available January 25 on Spartacus Records.

Conductor Tommy Smith
Narrator Tam Dean Burn
Piano Makoto Ozone
Text Adapted by Liz Lochhead
Flute Yvonne Robertson
Saxophones Martin Kershaw, Paul Towndrow, Konrad Wiszniewski, Bill Fleming
Trumpets James Davison, Sean Gibbs, Tom MacNiven, Lorne Cowieson
Trombones Chris Greive, Liam Shortall, Michael Owers
Bass Calum Gourlay
Drums Alyn Cosker
Music & Text commissioned by the SNJO 2017
Recorded live on 24 February 2018 at Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
Mixed and Mastered at Castlesound Studios by Stuart Hamilton 3 + 4 March 2018

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