Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Django

Queen’s Hall

Edinburgh

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Rob Adams

FIVE STARS

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra ended its 2017 Queen’s Hall concert series with a concert full of fun and exuberance as well as virtuosity. Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt’s music lends itself naturally to these qualities while also inviting the kind of soulful, sighing note reflection that featured soloist, guitar master Martin Taylor brought to probably Reinhardt’s most famous composition, Nuages, in a lovely arrangement by the orchestra’s alto saxophonist and clarinettist Martin Kershaw.

A good number of Reinhardt’s creations, along with tunes associated with him, were sequenced into medleys, mini suites in a way that allowed the music to change tempo and direction very effectively and brought out some startling, dynamic and ultra-smart ensemble work piloted by drummer Alyn Cosker, whose use of skulls and cowbell, harking back to the orchestral manoeuvres of the 1940s, was brilliantly and often comically theatrical without cheapening the impact.

Taylor was flanked by the marvellous Chris Garrick on violin and Karen Street on accordion in a side unit that could operate both independently of and beautifully and subtly in sync with the horns. If their playing on Taylor’s own Musette for a Magpie, with its French bar atmosphere, was bright and alive, then the way they swapped phrases on the brisk Django’s Rag was postively, in the favourite word of approval of another guitar hero, the recently departed Allan Holdsworth, gazeuse.

The bebopping Impromptu fizzed too and in contrast, Taylor and Street duetted with terrific sensitivity on Hymn a l’Amour before the concert finished with the SNJO horns processing around the auditorium while Taylor and orchestra director Tommy Smith co-led a cooking swing blues.