4

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke Another tribute to bandleader/composer/pianist Duke Ellington? Is this necessary? Pulling from the archive a few recent nods to one of America's musical icons reveals 1997's elegant Count Plays Duke (Mama Records), by the Count Basie Orchestra; Don Sebesky's unabashedly gorgeous Joyful Noise (RCA Victor, 1999); and pianist Ted Howe's excellent trio affair, Ellington (Summit Records, 2005). Each album explores Ellington deeply, while offering its own idiosyncratic twists to the music.

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra—and let's put it up front: yes, this is necessary—captures, perhaps most accurately, Ellington's sound and spirit with its sublime In the Spirit of Duke. Directed by saxophonist Tommy Smith, the orchestra offers up stirring versions of the classic Ellington art, recorded live in concert in very exhilarating fashion.

Smith wanted an authentic sound, so he brought in period mutes, recreated the stage setup of Ellington's time and used specially transcribed scores, playing some of the maestro's familiar classics—including "Black and Tan Fantasy," Creole Love Call; Prelude to a Kiss; The Single Pedal of a Rose—and some compositions known mainly to Duke-o-philes, such as "Morning Moods," "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and "Anitra's Dance," from the Ellington/Billy Strayhorn version of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite.

With a crisp, clean sound, the orchestra has captured the Ellington attitude: the swing, the pizzazz, the wonderful harmonies. The plentiful, fresh and spirited soloing doesn't match the likes of Ellington saxophonists Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, or trumpeters Cootie Williams and Ray Nance, though it's clear this wasn't the intention. Solos, after all, are the instrumentalists' chance to step out and let their individual personalities shine; that they do. Trumpeter Tom MacNiven works plunger mute magic on "Concierto for Cootie," while a back-to-back solo spot on "Jack the Bear" features clarinetist Martin Kershaw, baritone saxophonist Bill Flemming and a laidback wrap-up from trombonist Phil O'Malley.

The individual tunes are short and concise, like a back-in-the-day Ellington concert. The solos are sweet, swinging and to the point, with one exception: Smith's tenor saxophone's "Wailing Interval" in the middle of "Diminuendo in Blue/Crescendo in Blue." It's not quite the freewheeling and supremely inspired (and unmatchable) 27 choruses lain down by Ellington saxophonist Paul Gonsalves at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, but Smith rides the groove in a rousing way, wailing, for an invigorating fourteen minute close to this magical concert recording.


Track Listing: Black and tan Fantasy/Creole Love Call; In the Hall of the Mountain King; Jack the Bear; Le Sucrier Velours; Daybreak Express; Concert for Cootie; Harlem Air Shaft; Prelude to a Kiss; Sepia Panorama; Ko-Ko; Morning Mood; Anitra's Dance; The Single Pedal of a Rose; Kinda Dukish & Rockin' in Rhythm; Sunset and the Mocking Bird; Diminuendo in Blue [Wailing Interval] Crescendo in Blue.

Personnel: Tommy Smith: tenor saxophone and Director; Brian Kellock: piano; Ruaraidh Pattison: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Konrad Wiszniewski: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; clarinet; Bill Fleming: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Ryan Quigley: trumpet; Cameron Jay: trumpet; Tom MacNiven: trumpet; James Marr: trumpet; Chris Greive: trombone; Phil O'Malley: trombone; Michael Owers: bass trombone; Calum Gourlay: acoustic bass; Alyn Cosker: drums.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Spartacus Records


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Falga" CD/LP/Track Review Falga
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 18, 2016
Read "The Way You Say It" CD/LP/Track Review The Way You Say It
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 26, 2016
Read "Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear Completely)" CD/LP/Track Review Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear Completely)
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 11, 2016
Read "Spin Cycle" CD/LP/Track Review Spin Cycle
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 13, 2016
Read "AHEO" CD/LP/Track Review AHEO
by James Nadal
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "Days Are Not Days" CD/LP/Track Review Days Are Not Days
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!