In 1996, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s director, Tommy Smith commissioned the late Kenny Wheeler to write a suite which, some twenty years on, has been recorded by the seventeen-piece big band. Joining the all-star line-up on this Spartacus Records’ album are Laura Jurd (trumpet) and Irini Arabatzi (voice).
During a long career Wheeler often worked with vocalists and the use of the term ‘voice’ best describes Irini Arabatzi’s instrument alongside the trumpet and flugelhorn work of Laura Jurd. The suite comprises eight parts and throughout the fifty-seven or so minutes of the recording there is a fine balance between the two guest instrumentalists and the regular band. Such is the quality of Scotland’s premier orchestra that the collective contribution is never less than magnificent.
Kenny Wheeler’s compositions must be a joy to perform. The pieces flow gracefully, Arabatzi’s voice a constant presence, dancing in and out of sections, complementing Jurd’s assured playing The soloists within the orchestra step up from time to time; Jurd leading the way on Sweet Sister followed variously by band MD Smith (Keeper of the Light), the three solo parts by pianist Pete Johnstone, guitarist Rob Luft and Jurd on Worlds Apart through to the penultimate track (Twilight Chant) featuring Smith and the SNJO’s guests Jurd and Arabatzi.
Sweet Sister Suite is the sort of album that reveals more, then more again, on repeated listening. The legacy of Kenny Wheeler will live on in the everyday working lives of musicians in Scotland and around the world. This latest recording by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra will further the cause of putting before the public the music of Kenny Wheeler.
Wed 27 June 2018: Review by Russell for “Bebopspoken here”
Sweet Sister Suite is now on Spartacus Records (cat. No. STS026).
Martin Kershaw, Paul Towndrow, Konrad Wiszniewski, Tommy Smith, Bill Fleming (saxophones)
Tom Walsh, Sean Gibbs, Tom MacNiven; Lorne Cowieson (trumpets)
Chris Grieve, Phil O’Malley, Liam Shortall, Michael Owers (trombones)
Pete Johnstone (piano); Rob Luft (guitar); Calum Gourlay (bass); Alyn Cosker (drums)
+ guests Laura Jurd (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Irini Arabatzi (voice).