Founder/Director Tommy Smith established the SNJO in 1995 as a not-for-profit organisation with a crystal clear artistic vision and core values of versatility, discipline and expression. The SNJO is dedicated to promoting jazz as a pre-eminent art form through performances, original compositions, recordings, and educational outreach programmes. This commitment extends to the task of developing promising young jazz musicians through the ranks of The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra.
It should therefore come as no surprise that many of the leading lights in world jazz have enthusiastically shared the stage with the SNJO. People like Jazzmeia Horn, Cleo Laine, Jacqui Dankworth, John Scofield, Gary Burton, Bobby Watson, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Bill Evans, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Temperley, Tam White, Carol Kidd, Norma Winstone, Gary Novak, Mike Stern, Bob Mintzer, Keith Tippett, Niall Greig Fulton, Tam Dean Burn, Benny Golson, Rebecca Kilgore, Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, Branford Marsalis, Joe Locke, Jim Mullen, Mike Maineri, Maria Schneider, Bobby Wellins, Martin Taylor, Laura Jurd, Giuliana Soscia, Paolo Fresu, Eddi Reader, Keith Tippett, Courtney Pine, Mike Walker, Ingrid Jensen, Arild Andersen, Peter Erskine, Kurt Elling, Makoto Ozone and Randy Brecker have all joined the orchestra to explore virtually every room in the house of the jazz.
The SNJO repertoire has included re-imaginings of works by the great, the good and the gigantic, including Weather Report, Herman, Rich, Carter, Strayhorn, Goodman, Kenton, Basie, Gillespie, Mingus, Jaco, Corea, Monk, Metheny, Shorter, Miles and Coltrane. They have also recorded vivid interpretations of Mozart, Prokofiev, Piazzolla, Gershwin and Ellington to rave reviews, alongside a remarkable re-reading of Miles Ahead, an ECM-tinted set on Celebration and Tommy Smith’s suites, World of the Gods, Torah, and Beauty & the Beast. The SNJO has built a growing library of original compositions underpinned by a deep understanding and appreciation of improvisation.