The Catstrand, New Galloway, Scotland 18 April 2014 (more…)
Glasgow, Feb. 2014
Dear Supporters of ‘Review all Genres of Music’,
When I departed home this morning the petition was quiescent at 442 and my bones were unsettled. Having just returned from teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland it’s now ascending at an active 832. I’ve taken time to dutifully read everything everyone has written and I’d like to take this humble opportunity to thank you all; this grand list of individuals from 21 countries, for your time, resolve, passion and creativity. For without whom, this entire petition would not have had the effect to cause such a swift wave in the corridors of power. (more…)
25th January 2014
Dear Robert Burns and his descendants,
On this sacred day, the Scotsman newspaper has taken the budgetary decision to end reviewing world music, classical and jazz recordings, which is a heart-breaking bowdlerization of minority art forms and another cessation for the popularization and liberality of creativity. They may publish occasional reviews in the future but only from their syndication agreements, as long as they don’t have to pay for them. Who knows where they’ll appear, as their current Saturday magazine is also going to the four winds. (more…)
Film producer Lord Puttnam, rugby star Scott Hastings, jazz musician and composer Tommy Smith, Homeless World Cup President and founder of The Big Issue Scotland Mel Young, and Chair of CBI Scotland Nosheena Mobarik were awarded their degrees at a ceremony at the McEwen Hall, Edinburgh University.
Vocalise by Rachmaninov featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell and Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith on 8th September 2012, Glasgow City Halls, BBC Proms Last Night Celebrations in Scotland.
Among the 12 award categories, vocalist of the year went to Carol Kidd MBE. Saxophonist Julian Argüelles was instrumentalist of the year, while fellow saxophonist Tommy Smith’s group recording Karma collected album of the year, while Smith also won the education award. A lifetime recognition award went to Ronnie Rae Senior, veteran double-bassist, mentor and patriarch of an entire jazz clan, while this year’s “emerging artist” was the busy young bassist, Euan Burton.
Award for Best Jazz Educator
Award for Best Album of the Year ‘KARMA’ (more…)
All week the SNJO and the inspirational Randy Brecker have been performing the uplifting and effervescent music of his dear brother, the sensational, gentle and humble Michael Brecker.
With the volunteers from the Anthony Nolan Trust, who joined us on tour, we’ve tried to make people aware of how YOU can save a life, whether it’s someone you know or don’t.
In 2007 my heart sank deeply when I heard that Michael Brecker had passed away from leukemia after a two year long battle with MDS, as he was unable to find a matching stem cell donor. If he had found a match, he’d probably be alive today. (more…)
Thursday 12th April, The Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) is delighted to announce the inaugural longlist for The Scottish Album of the Year Award. Featuring the twenty highest scoring titles to emerge from the award’s exhaustive nomination process, the list champions an eclectic range of extraordinary albums and artists. From jazz to reggae soundsystems via folk, electronica, house, rock, dub, modern classical (and everything in between), The SAY longlist provides an exhilaratingly diverse snapshot of Scotland’s musical landscape and establishes the award as one of the UK’s most exciting and progressive arts prizes. (more…)
Tommy Smith & East West European Jazz Orchestra
Tommy Smith’s latest band Karma opened this concert, drummer Alyn Coskerblasting in for a full-on assault. Karma – also the name of Smith’s latest album – sees the saxophonist in jazz-rock mode. Joining Smith and Cosker were pianistSteve Hamilton and bass guitarist Kevin Glasgow.
Cosker provided the motive force – a powerful drummer, he’s equally adept at the slower, more subtle numbers which call for much more sensitivity. The set was equally balanced between rockier numbers and slower tunes infused with a celtic-folk sensibility. Smith played some exquisite soprano on the evocative “Land of Heroes”, mimicking Scots piping.
The band could lay down a good groove, too, Glasgow plucking the bass with his thumb to great exact. Smith sounded great on tenor as well a soprano – and he even played recorder on one tune. The alternation of fast-loud and slow-gentle tunes felt a little Jekyll and Hyde-like, but this was an enjoyable set.
The gig really got strange after the break though. I felt distinctly in the wrong place. Pelbo are not jazz; in fact they are about as not-jazz as it is possible for an avant garde pop band to be. This was pop stripped of any blues sensibility; the only jazz-like characteristic they had is that one of the trio played a tuba. Interesting as it was, it was more suited to a rave club than a concert hall, and was especially jarring after the jazz of Karma.
So it feels more than a little odd to be reviewing Pelbo for LondonJazz in the middle of the London Jazz Festival – but I have eclectic tastes, so here goes…
For three people, they create one hell of a sound. The dominant feature was the drums of Trond Bersu, but it was a heavy, rich drum sound and he had the verve and technique to pull it off. Ine Hoem sang, using electronic loops to create choirs of soaring vocals. Kristoffer Lo also used electronics and loops to change the sound of his tuba, producing deep organ-like roars and rumbles: his tuba became the bass.
It was dark if energetic dance music, reminiscent of Mezzanine-period Massive Attack or, when Bersu was thrashing his cymbals, Spiritualised. Lo did some amazing things with his tuba, dancing manically around producing wailing feedback: “heavy metal tuba” are three words I couldn’t ever have imagined writing as a phrase – but that’s what it was.
Scots saxophonist Tommy Smith returns to his and some other jazz roots with his new album Karma as well as paradoxically making a perhaps inadvertently radical statement. He tours the music in Scotland in late June and later elsewhere (see below). (more…)
Tommy Smith’s new quartet includes pianist/keyboardist Steve Hamilton and drummer Alyn Cosker off his 2005 Forbidden Fruit album, but this no less brilliant successor is very different. New is Kevin Glasgow on six-string electric bass, and the lingua franca has become an amalgam of Scottish, Irish and Arab folk elements spiced with funk, fusion and heavy metal. (more…)
Scottish saxophonist Smith, a teenage prodigy in the 80s, is nowadays one of the most widely respected of European jazz musicians – not just for his sax mastery, but for his influence on his homeland’s jazz culture through the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its youth wing he founded and still runs. Smith can play the daylights out of full-on post-bop or explore north-Euro ambiance, but this is a hard-hitting fusion album – one that sounds pretty familiar at first, with its hammering backbeats (from the ferocious Alyn Cosker), slick unison choruses and Headhunters keyboard and bass guitar effects. But Smith is much too smart for the obvious, and this set for what he calls his “grunge band” turns out to be a rare splicing of rich-toned, pipe-like themes, fiercely guttural up-tempo tenor improv, Arabic and Irish music, tight grooving that suggests Weather Report or Chris Potter’s Underground band, and some haunting atmospherics from his shakuhachi bamboo flute. Smith’s compositions are way ahead of the usual slam-bang fusion forays, and the sombrely pensive Star (based on an Irish folk song) is a great sax-ballad performance.
In the photo I tried to capture one of those contempative, meditative Zen moments, with Tommy Smith crouching hidden next to the piano, musing as the band played on. I smiled as the thought came to me that perhaps he’s been overcome by thoughts of his own Karma. Looking around at the audience, that mood had communicated to them, people were still, transfixed, caught in their own inner thoughts. (more…)
Tommy Smith has explored many directions over the years, and Karma adds another to that list with a shift into a more groove- and rock-based idiom. The band made their debut in a superb concert at last year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and this disc, recorded the following day, bears out the powerful impression the music made that night. (more…)
Hailed on arrival by critics as the toughest and most creative group of his career, Tommy Smith’s KARMA sees the brilliant Scottish saxophonist lead a band of virtuosic musicians on a deeply grooving acid jazz adventure that draws on influences from around the world. (more…)
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Kurt Elling, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh *****
IN AN era when singers of many different backgrounds like to dabble with jazz and swing, real jazz singers remain at a premium. There are no doubts in the case of Chicago’s Kurt Elling – and saxophonist Tommy Smith’s assertion that he is the greatest jazz voice on the planet needs no correction. (more…)
Kurt Elling with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
WHATEVER John Coltrane imagined his A Love Supreme suite inspiring – world peace would have been reasonable reward – he surely can’t have considered someone arriving who could turn the melody and saxophone solo from that masterpiece’s Resolution into a work of blistering vocal art that must be heard while its creator is in the same room to be believed. ***** (more…)
Although he has worked with all three musicians in this new quartet before, saxophonist Tommy Smith promised a new direction for this debut. That shift was apparent from the opening bars of the first composition, Cause and Effect. (more…)
Tommy Smith has been so immersed in encouraging the next generation of jazz musicians, overseeing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s programme and touring with bassist Arild Andersen’s trio that he has neglected his own career. Five years have passed since his last album, Forbidden Fruit, was released but somewhere amongst a workload that sees him often directing operations by email from whichever airport he’s passing through, the saxophonist has found time to compose an entire repertoire for a new band in a style that marks a significant departure. (more…)
On June 4th, 2010, Tommy was presented the Lord Provost’s Award for Music by Lord Provost, Bob Winter at the Glasgow City Chambers.
The annual awards for community service, education, sport and performing arts, among others, is being given to a variety of individuals whose achievements have helped to raise Glasgow’s profile and brought honour to the city. Tommy Smith was credited with doing more than anyone to place Glasgow on the jazz world stage.
The ceremony was followed by a sumptuous dinner, music and many interesting speeches.
Written by Tommy Smith in 1999, with Joe Lovano in mind (and performed by the great US saxophonist, with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, during a weekend of concerts in Scotland in February 2000), Torah is a five-part suite inspired by the Pentateuch, a portion of the Bible that informs the foundation myths of all three major monotheistic world religions. (more…)
Tommy Smith will be 43 in 10 days time, which doesn’t seem feasible. Somehow he has never lost the aura of being a super-talented much younger man. What he translates as, however, is a dynamic presence in Scottish music for over a quarter of a century. Now an essential pillar of the cultural infrastructure of the nation, the saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator has fought for every inch of that status, and insisted on his own terms every step of the way. The term “role-model” is much over-deployed these days, but Smith has been that to a couple of generations of jazz musicians. (more…)
Internationally renowned Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith leads one of Europe’s leading jazz orchestras in a personal and spiritual journey of discovery. Featuring the cream of Scotland’s thriving jazz scene, Torah is orchestral jazz at its most powerfully expressive.
Originally written by Smith in 1999, for American saxophone giant Joe Lovano. The 2010 Torah recordings feature the composer as both lead soloist and director of an orchestra of outstanding talents. The music is robust, crisply written and beautifully detailed, using horns as commentators as well as supporters and a brilliant rhythm section as the dynamic base for Smith’s by turns tender and rugged but always heartfelt improvisations on strong, memorable themes. (more…)
I was surprised on Friday at the SNJO gig to see a new CD on sale.
“Torah” by The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra featuring Tommy Smith isn’t “officially” released till the end of April, so finding it for sale on a trestle table at the last gig was a real added bonus (though a very low key “launch”). (more…)