Mozart was 21 when he wrote the K271 Jeunehomme piano concerto, and some connoisseurs consider it his first masterpiece. But if the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra are daunted by its prestige and cascade of ideas, they don’t show it. Nor does Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone, who has successfully specialised in such crossovers in recent years. This fine band is strikingly fast on its feet in reacting to the free-time fluidity of the cadenzas, and to Ozone’s skids from frolicking Mozartian figures to McCoy Tyner-like chordal eruptions or Fats Walleresque stride piano. The flighty first movement cherishes the original, then develops the themes in strutting horn motifs and powerful swing soloing; Tommy Smith’s tenor sax bewitchingly opens the more sombre Andantino before a simmering tango emerges; and the quirkily punchy third movement becomes a bebop tear-up for the SNJO soloists, and a flying classical stride from Ozone at the close. It’s a clever, sympathetic and truly musical example of the treacherous art of jazz/classical cohabitation.
This article was written by John Fordham, for The Guardian on Thursday 23rd July 2015