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Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Makoto Ozone: Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 9 K-271

Dan McClenaghan By

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It's Mozart, so you expect genius to jump out of the speakers, and it does, on Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No 9 K-271. And it's not just the genius of the composer, it's also a brilliant showcase for pianist Matsuko Ozone's arranging and conducting skills, and for the hearty magnificence of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was twenty-one years old when he wrote this piece, and it is often considered his first true masterpiece. Taking Mozart's music away from the sweep of the diaphanous grandeur of the strings and bringing it into the swing and audacity of jazz sheds a light on new facets of the composer's mind, and gives the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra—perhaps the finest and most versatile big band working today—a chance to strut its stuff with a surprising gravitas.

And if there is gravitas, there is also joy. "1st Movement, Allegro Swing" (adapted from the original's "Allegro") is an uplifting a piece, injected with a jazz energy via an intricate arrangement and a brash rhythm section. Drummer Alyn Cosker drives the music with fire in the more propulsive sections. Ozone plays with classical delicacy and stateliness in a solo piano segment that leads into a torrid tenor sax turn (and you can bet that Mozart didn't write these notes) by the Orchestra's director, Tommy Smith, backed by Ozone's shift to a muscular and percussive accompaniment. And swing it does.

"2nd Movement, Adantino Tango" opens with a mournful tenor sax solo. From a perspective not fully familiar with the classical side, this eighteen minute section sounds the most classical, and profound. The mix of brass and reeds is laid down with a subtle grace, containing a solo segment for soprano sax by Ruaridh Pattison, a small, searching masterpiece, followed by a lush elegance from Ozone at the piano.

The "3rd Movement, Rondo/Presto Be-Bop" brings the jazz element back to the forefront. Ozone employs a classical flashiness on the piano, then slips into something that sounds like he's sitting on the bench next to Fats Waller. Then here comes the band, with an in-your-face gusto, giving trumpeter Tom Walsh some room to tear it up. Later, a free-flying turn by trombonist Chris Greive.

This is a live recording, the best kind of jazz. At the end, back washed by a sea of raucous applause, someone shouts "Wonderful!" That says it all.

Track Listing: 1st Movement: Allegro Swing; 2nd Movement: Andantino Tango; 3rd Movement: Rondo/Presto Be-Bop.

Personnel: Makoto Ozone: piano; Calum Courlay: bass; Alyn Cosker: drums; Martin Kershaw: clarinet, alto saxophone; Ruaridh Pattison: alto and soprano saxophones; Tommy Smith: tenor saxophone, flute; Konrad Wiszniewski: tenor saxophone; Bill Fleming: baritone saxophone; Tom Walsh: trumpet; Cameron Jay: trumpet; Tom McNiven: trumpet; Lorne Cowieson: trumpet; Chris Greive: trombone; Phil O'Malley: trombone; Michael Owers: trombone

Title: Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 9 K-271 | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Spartacus Records

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