Music

SNJO: A Christmas Festival of Jazz with TSYJO

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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Rob Adams

FOUR STARS

They better watch out, better not cry, better not pout because, as the song doesn’t go on to say, the next generation might be after their jobs. There was no sense of anti-climax in the “feeder team” - the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra - following their senior colleagues on the bill of this Christmas special. Indeed, by and large they sounded almost ready to follow in the footsteps of one of the evening’s star performers, trumpeter Sean Gibbs, in moving up to the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

Gibbs did a double shift, playing in SNJO’s marvellously precise retelling of the Ellington-Strayhorn Nutcracker adaptation before joining the TSJYO trumpet section in a Christmas selection that included some astute arrangements from Wynton Marsalis. One of these, a beautifully stealthy take on Silent Night, allowed Gibbs to shadow a lovely, mature performance by singer Irini Arabatzis with bold, mischievous wah-wahed improvising that mightn’t have been out of place in the Ellington orchestra.

The evening began with a quietly atmospheric brass carol from the balcony that segued into “Santa” Cosker’s typically crisp drumming intro to the first of two readings of Jingle Bells, the Basie version. Highlights in the following Nutcracker were many but Paul Towndrow’s long, winding alto arrival on Arabesque Cookie, with Cosker beating a strict tempo pattern on toms, was especially magnificent.

Kudos too to Martin Kershaw, also appearing in both orchestras, playing alto and soprano saxophones and contributing some particularly tasty clarinet lines and solos, and to TSYJO’s wonderfully assured Fergus McCreadie, on piano, who must now be knocking on the big team’s dressing room door.