Tommy Smith

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
American Adventure
Spartacus Records ****
There’s a confidence and a swagger about the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s performance here that hits you from the off, on one of their starriest albums to date following not long on from their Ellington-themed last album.
The exuberance of jazz-rock icon Mike Stern wailing beautifully against the swelling ensemble sound on Marcus Miller’s ‘Splatch’ at the beginning doesn’t hurt at all. And neither too does the sheer excitement of this whole enterprise for the orchestra holed up at Avatar in New York for a couple of days during their first north American tour last year, a buzz factor that clearly rubbed off in terms of performance.


There’s plenty of composure as well in this set of well-chosen modern jazz repertory material featuring the inclusion of arrangements from a number of hands of music including pieces by John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, and Chick Corea, and there’s also a remarkable artistic breadth bearing in mind that the orchestra is equally at home performing very different ECM-related material. Kurt Elling’s poised and velvety tones added to the fine Tommy Smith arrangement of ‘Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love’ is an immediate talking point on this excellent record. Other guests, including Joe Locke, flying on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Yes or No’, trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Dave Liebman, and drummer Clarence Penn, don’t distract at all with their star power. An American adventure that works on every level.   
Released on 17 February

Tommy Smith top right with the SNJO; and the album sleeve, above