NYOS Futures with Mark Lockheart

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Rob Adams

four stars

THE YOUNG musicians in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s Futures ensemble are collectively quite a resource. This latest project aligned them with saxophonist Mark Lockheart, an experienced presence on the London scene since the 1980s, whose very individual vision of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s repertoire called for much detail, precision and colour. The Futures team carried it off like seasoned professionals.

Lockheart’s Ellington in Anticipation takes pieces including Mood Indigo, Caravan and Creole Love Call and gives them often provocative new settings. For instance, the familiar theme only emerges late in Lockheart’s My Caravan, but using violins, cello, French horns, flute, clarinets, alto sax, bass trombone and a beautifully understated rhythm section, these arrangements created an atmosphere that was at once bold and empathetic.

It Don’t Mean a Thing danced with sophistication, Lockheart’s own Uptown, inspired by Ellington’s routine train journeying, conjured up a 1920s elegance that easily accommodated some bang up to date improvising from the warm-toned Lockheart on tenor and Angus Morton on alto, and Come Sunday, with its tick-tock snare drum and ensemble swell, gave off a vivid sense of anticipation.

Some of the wind instrument voicings reminded me at times of Lockheart’s alma mater, Loose Tubes, a welcome addition to the music’s character, and something of that big band’s fearlessness shone through in improvisations both from those less used to jazz soloing (take a bow, the violin section) and NYOS’s experienced jazz director, pianist Malcolm Edmonstone. What characterised the evening overall, though, was the integration of soloists and ensemble arrangements so that the music consistently moved forward, subtly, purposefully and with confidence.