Of all the many hours of music that the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has played and shared over the past twenty-one years it’s the ensemble’s affinity with Charles Mingus that’s the most striking. The orchestra celebrated this most characterful of jazzmen’s work in the early years of this century with a firecracker of a concert and here it was again, with its distinguished guest, Norwegian double bass master Arild Andersen, metaphorically brawling, reeling and positively rocking in rhythm ’n’ hymns.
Mingus was a jazz historian. He championed the music that had gone before, celebrating Jellyroll Morton’s New Orleans spirit, Duke Ellington’s eloquence and Charlie Parker’s fluency in his own compositions and all the time, as illustrated fully here, infusing them with his own blood and guts, blues and gospel, belligerence and gumption. It was soul food when he wrote it and like Thelonious Monk’s music it has become more current with every passing year.
Though slimmed down to three in the trumpet and trombone sections, the orchestra still packed sonic power and colour. And with Andersen, who studied Mingus’s rhythm work closely, pianist Brian Kellock and drummer Alyn Cosker forming an engine room that could change gear and direction with Mingusian devilment, this was jazz with massive personality.
Andersen’s fabulous propulsion drove Haitian Fight Song with an intoxicating groove. Allon Beauvoisin’s baritone gave Moanin’ appropriate filth and force and uniformly keen soloing brought out all Mingus’ uptempo churchy jubilation and bruised ballad romance before the glorious Ecclusiastics, with Tommy Smith and Konrad Wiszniewski trading tenor saxophone phrases imbued with wit and fervour, completed the whole fabulously exhilarating shebang.
Rob Adams: The Herald, September 26, 2016