With around half of the Fife Jazz Orchestra consisting of players from the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, whose own Ellington celebration last month set quite a precedent, there was no shortage of recent experience of playing the Ducal songbook onstage.
However, the special guest who would have lent perhaps the greatest authority to the music, former Ellington baritone saxophonist, Fife-born Joe Temperley, had to cancel his trip from New York through illness, leaving a formidable gap in the soloing order. Temperley's planned appearance had inspired a pair of non-Ellington pieces in his honour and trombonist Phil O'Malley and alto-saxophonist Stewart Forbes respectively did a fine job as the featured voices on Adrian Drover's imaginative settings of My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose and the Skye Boat Song, the latter reimagined as a jazz waltz.
Pianist Brian Kellock had fired the concert up in his typically boisterous way with an explosive introduction to Rockin' In Rhythm and despite the soloists not always being given the clearest of sounds in the overall mix, trumpeter Ryan Quigley excelled both as a high register contributor on Harlem Air Shaft and in filling Cootie Williams's plunger-muted role on the briskly executed Concerto for Cootie.
The orchestra's second special guest, Georgina Jackson, gave competent readings of songs including a sprightly Hit Me With A Hot Note, the ballad All Too Soon and a nicely arranged Caravan and the Dundee connection, local saxophonist Gordon McNeil featured strongly in the second half, with a fluent, mobile tenor solo on Take The A Train particularly catching the ear.