Review: SNJO with Arild Andersen

Anthony Troon enjoys the SNJO with guest bassist Arild Andersen in a lively performance of The Jazz Legacy of Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus’s compositions allowed lots of freedom to soloists and the 13 musicians of the SNJO were certainly up for that in this stimulating performance at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall as part of a short Scottish tour. The leader, Tommy Smith, used some of the arrangements by Sy Oliver, written for Mingus more than half-a-century ago – familiar to the audience from recordings and clearly relished by them. These were all handled with precision, so there was maybe less of the engaging ensemble chaos which was often a feature of Mingus’s leadership, making alterations and shouting new instructions to his sidemen in mid-flight. There was also a specially commissioned arrangement (by Christian Jacob) of All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother, the original supposed to have been written when Mingus was in Bellevue mental hospital. The band took this at a brisk tempo with a nicely fierce extended trumpet solo by Tom MacNiven.

Haitian Fight Song was given a superb introduction and a strongly melodic solo by Arild Andersen (pictured right), the veteran bassist who's now in his 70s. I cannot give enough praise to his influence throughout this performance, handling with flair (along with drummer Alyn Cosker and pianist Brian Kellock) the changes of tempo and passages of acceleration that enlivened proceedings. Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love (arr. Smith) featured the leader on flute, with Andersen stating the theme resonantly on bass, while muted brass delicately whispered into Self-Portrait In Three Colours. On baritone sax, Allon Beauvoisin delivered the obbligato for the jump-theme of Moanin’ before duetting with the bass. The bluesy subtleties of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – the composer’s eulogy for Lester Young – informed one of the most moving pieces of the evening. As a generous encore we were treated to a medium-paced reading of the quirky Ecclusiastics. This was opened with some thunderous piano by Kellock and developed into a lively tenor sax chase with Tommy Smith and Konrad Wiszniewski. The rich variety discovered in Mingus’s music, together with his personal take on the avant-garde of his period, really did demonstrate a plentiful legacy that lives on in jazz. The SNJO is astonishingly good.

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