Remember this: Tommy Smith Scottish National Jazz Orchestra


It was in 1995 that saxophonist Tommy Smith founded the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. He went on to gain an international reputation.

His 11 albums to date include ‘Celebration’, for the prestigious ECM Records. The SNJO has reinterpreted revered works by Mozart, Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, championed new compositions by Smith himself, and revitalized jazz classics overlooked by British-Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins , born in Glasgow.

High-profile guests who have traveled to Scotland to tour with the orchestra include Grammy-winning singers Dame Cleo Laine and Kurt Elling, trumpeter Randy Brecker, top saxophonist Joe Lovano, former drummer of Weather Report Peter Erskine and guitarists John Scofield and Mike Stern, both of whom have worked with Miles Davis.

SNJO’s 25th anniversary concert, broadcast worldwide from Perth Concert Hall, has drawn viewers from as far away as the United States, Norway and Australia, and is available online through January 4 . promising players – trombonists Anoushka Nanguy (21) and Liam Shortall (24) – who have together won three of the five recent Scottish Jazz Awards awarded specifically to musicians.

The concert and rehearsals the day before were held under strict COVID-19 guidelines.

“Everyone arrived at different times. Everyone wore a mask except when playing their instruments or talking music to the camera, and a one-way system worked throughout the concert hall, ”Smith said.

“It was the first time we had played together since performing Peter and the Wolf, with Norwegian narration, in Oslo – and the first time that many members of the orchestra had performed with other musicians in eight months. . So the high level of performance was quite an achievement and was reflected in the comments made by the online audience, which included arrangers and musicians we worked with.

Although he now receives regular financial support from Creative Scotland, the orchestra did not always receive public funding and for the first 15 years Smith took charge of all administration as well as the supervision of rehearsals and performances. representations. He still drives, even now, the pickup truck carrying the ensemble’s sound equipment to every gig.

“It takes dedication to keep a band alive,” says Smith, who has trained many of the current SNJO staff through his own youth jazz orchestra and the jazz course he created at the Conservatory. Royal of Scotland in 2009. “You just have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it work and the musicians who are in the orchestra now, and those who have been with us in the past, have always given all they had for the cause.

Alan Morrison, Head of Music, Creative Scotland, said: “For 25 years, SNJO has brought world-class jazz to the concert hall scene, breathing new life into the big band’s repertoire with bold original compositions and new arrangements of archival classics. Each concert is a gem in itself, as virtuoso solos punctuate the rich textures of the ensemble.

“But it is all of the work, lovingly built over a quarter of a century, that makes SNJO an indispensable cultural institution at home and a proud ambassador of Scottish music abroad.”

Leading UK jazz magazine Jazzwise said: ‘Smith’s SNJO has become one of the great adornments of our UK jazz scene, with the staff invariably of the highest standard, their many successful collaborations are a fitting testament. of their prowess. ”

* The concert is available at

* Read more: Journal of the Herald

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Henry R. Wright