Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra

Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra

Festival Theatre

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Rob Adams

It was thoughtful of the late Tubby Hayes to form his Commonwealth Big Band at the time of the 1965 Commonwealth Conference and give Edinburgh Jazz Festival a handy idea to tie in with events in Glasgow.

As has been the way with previous efforts to put an orchestra together from musicians who are appearing at the festival in other guises, this one had its merits and uneven moments.

Commonwealth countries including New Zealand, Canada, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa and Bangladesh (through director and pianist Zoe Rahman's paternal family links) as well as England and Scotland were represented in the personnel, and while Hayes's own writing featured alongside his friend and colleague, Dundee-born trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar's, the repertoire also reached out across the oceans.

South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's Cherry inspired rather more celebration, not to say gleeful abandon, among the orchestra than was detectable in his own festival appearance on the opening weekend, and Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison's Le Belleclaire Blues drew fine soloing from Graeme Blevins on soprano saxophone.

Scots-born, South Africa-raised trumpeter Ian Smith's attempts to hit the high notes on his feature didn't fare quite so well, and Canadian Rob McConnell's arrangement of Horace Silver's The Backbeat and Deuchar's Killers of W1 had rhythmical thrust but lacked quality and conviction.

Still, it was a worthwhile exercise and having Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra open the concert was a nice touch. The youngsters, bolstered here and there by more senior hands, acquitted themselves well in the ensemble passages of Bobby Timmons' Moanin' and Quincy Jones' Soul Bossa Nova.