Having cast transformational brilliance over Mozart’s 9th piano concerto, how would the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by saxophonist Tommy Smith and guest pianist Makoto Ozone, handle these two much-loved popular classics? In the event they pulled off a double bill that combined virtuosity and ingenuity with unadulterated theatricality. Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf – Liz Lochhead’s Scots translation narrated with eye-rolling loquaciousness by Tam Dean Burn – followed the established plot (though with a contemporary closing twist) but with Smith’s arrangements bringing big-band swing as well as vivid jazz colouring to the tale. Ozone’s piano embodied Peter, the wolf emerged via a malevolently growling trombone trio, while Tom MacNiven’s mute trumpet channelled the plaintively parping duck.
It was a delightful collision between folk tale and big-band swing with a fair dash of panto, but Ozone’s orchestration of Saint-Saëns’s “zoological fantasy” allowed soloists to really open out, with saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski pulling a soulful break out of the languorous can-can of Tortoises, clarinettist Martin Kershaw morphing potentially clichéd cuckooing into a lyrical serenade and joining fellow reedsman Paul Towndrow in an athletic Kangaroo duet. Ozone accelerated into gleeful boogie-woogie for Pianists (clearly designated a taxonomical class of their own), Fossils were re-animated with audaciously Cuban brio and that staple cello solo The Swan saw Smith’s tenor sax dialoguing with flautist Yvonne Robertson and gliding inventively, before a serious drum solo and sparring trombones brought this uniquely colourful carnival to a close.
By Jim Gilchrist for The Scotsman *****
Published: 12:06 Tuesday 27 February 2018
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh