Review: Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock

The "matchless double act" of Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock brewed up a perfect storm at Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall, according to Anthony Troon

The Carnegie Hall (not that one, but the handsome, art deco, 540-seat version in the late philanthropist’s home town) heard sounds of astonishing creativity from just two men on the evening of Sunday 18 October. Two friends of long standing, it has to be said. This was undoubtedly a key to the degree of mutual empathy and respect which allowed them to enjoy each other’s virtuosity and transmit a feeling of reckless joy to their audience.

It was not virtuosity for its own sake but the shared kind that ramps up the tension in lavish bouts of improvisation. Tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith (pictured right) and pianist Brian Kellock – both originating from Edinburgh – are now widely lauded as world-class musicians and make a matchless double act. In a programme culled mainly from 20th-century American show tunes, they displayed surging drive and, in ballads, a movingly limpid caressing of the melody. Outstanding examples of this came with Hoagy’s Stardust and in their final encore of Duke’s Single Petal Of A Rose, the sax breathily hushed and the piano hauntingly tender.

One of their first-set swingers was, incredibly, the 1925 song I Want To Be Happy from the musical No, No, Nanette, recruited into jazz by Red Nichols, Benny Goodman etc, but hardly to be expected from modernists at home with a little more harmonic complexity. They turned the hoary warhorse into a fast development of fierce jamming which gripped their (smallish but appreciative) audience. There was an injection of Glenn Millerism through Moonlight Serenade and Chattanooga Choo Choo, previewing a programme for which one of Tommy’s big bands is currently preparing. The second set included an extended Blue Monk and a boppish, densely chorded Bernie’s Tune, once coolly rediscovered by the Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartet. Not all duos can maintain two hours of such jaw-dropping inventiveness.

This was the first of a Music On Sundays programme of six concerts – largely by classical artists – being staged by Dunfermline Arts Guild. Their winter of culture certainly started with a perfect storm.

Photo by Andy Catlin

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