NYOS Jazz Orchestra

Tolbooth, Stirling

Keith Bruce

four stars

COLLEAGUE Kate Molleson is apt to point out a lack of female representation in music projects, and she would surely remark on the gender imbalance in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s jazz big band, even if her niece, still in her mid-teens, made a memorable impression with her soloing on alto in a saxophone section that was majority female. Among the rest of the brass, however, there was only Anoushka Nanguy on trombone – who played a muscular first solo of the night during the rousing walk-on opener – and none at all in the rhythm section. The line-up of singers, a crucial choral ingredient in this concert, was, on the other hand and in the way of things, exclusively women.

This four-voice “choir”, as director Malcolm Edmonstone termed it, effectively gave the ensemble an extra section, both on selections of music from the book of Weather Report keyboard player Joe Zawinul, which he had arranged, and for the music originated by special guest, beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh. He sampled the young women’s voices most memorably on a radical exploration of the Skye Boat Song, referencing the residency at Sabhal Mor Ostaig where the partnership began earlier this year. A tenor sax solo by Jack Schendel was the instrumental highlight of that piece, while a Tallulah Molleson solo had been one of the joys of the first and best of Singh’s contributions, Time, when complex rhythms showed off the skills of drummer Kenny Lyons and a climactic coda was so good the band played it twice.

The most familiar of the Zawinul tunes conducted by Andrew Bain was the title track of the Black Market album, on which the rhythm section ruled, leaving the horns very much in a supporting role. Keyboard player Ross Taylor, on impressive form all night, was very much in the Zawinul groove on the composer’s late, African-flavoured Brown Street. As distinctive was the reading of Midnight Mood, from 40 years earlier in his catalogue, for which each of the four vocalists had written lyrics, which they seamlessly stitched together.

NYOS Jazz Orchestra and Jason Singh play a similar programme on a special edition of BBC Radio Scotland’s Jazz Nights at the Quay on Sunday evening (November 4) at 7pm.