ARILD ANDERSON & THE SCOTTISH NATIONAL JAZZ ORCHESTRA/TOMMY SMITH – Celebration
ECM 2259/279 0947
Martin Kershaw (cl, ss, as); Paul Towndrow (as); Tommy Smith (fl, ts); Konrad Wiszniewski (ts); Bill Fleming (bcl, bs); Ryan Quigley, Cameron Jay, Richard Iles, Tom MacNiven (t, fl-h); Chris Grieve, Phil O’Malley, Michael Owers (tb); Lorna MacDonald (b-tb); Steve Hamilton (p); Calum, Gourlay (b); Alyn Cosker (d)
Recorded October 2010
What better way to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of ECM Records than with an album of compositions that are indelibly linked to the label and the artists who record for it; and who better to perform it than one of the label’s longest serving musicians, Arild Anderson as the soloist with arguably Europe’s leading big band.
Anderson needs no introduction. One of Scandinavia’s finest bass players, who has worked in numerous aggregations as leader and sideman for ECM, and a soloist who is more than up for the challenges that this project was to throw at him.
The selection of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, however, would not have been a foregone conclusion but even the most casual listen to the music endorses whole heartedly that the right decision was made. The last few years has seen the SNJO develop into a world class orchestra, able to handle material from the classic big band era and composers to contemporary commissions and works from the leading musicians around the globe.
The compositions on this live recording features newly commissioned arrangements from six arrangers from the UK, Europe and America that cast new light on such familiar material as Chick Corea’s ‘Crystal Silence’, and ‘My Song’ by fellow pianist Keith Jarrett (arranged by Makota Ozone and Geoffrey Keezer respectively); but it as a complete entity that this project is realised so successfully.
With superlative arrangements, a master soloist in bassist Andersen, and an ensemble as flexible as the SNJO the album is captivating from start to finish, and in an era of overlong CDs one has to lament the fact that this is not a double album. In an hour long programme it is impossible to single out individual tracks as the main event of the night. From the opening ‘May Dance’ (featuring the orchestra’s director, Tommy Smith’s tenor solo), Mike Gibb’s arrangements of Anderson’s composition ‘Independency, Part 4’ to the beautifully structured and dynamic ‘Ulrikas Dans’ by Trygve Seim (incidental y the only composer who has a hand in re-arranging his own composition for the orchestra) Arild Andersen and the SNJO provide a truly fitting celebration for the music of ECM.