Rhapsody in Blue
Label: Spartacus Records
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (Live)
martin kershaw clarinet, alto saxophone paul towndrow alto saxophone tommy smith tenor saxophone konrad wiszniewski tenor saxophone bill fleming baritone saxophone ryan quigley trumpet paul newton trumpet tom macniven trumpet linsey mcdonald trumpet chris greive trombone michael campbell trombone michael owers trombone lorna mcdonald bass trombone graeme scott guitar brian kellock piano calum gourlay acoustic bass alyn cosker drums
THE SCOTSMAN KENNY MATHIESON ★★★★ (4 stars) THE long-awaited second release from the SNJO features a performance recorded on the opening night of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in 2006. Tommy Smith led the band in his new arrangement of George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, with Brian Kellock as a superb piano soloist. To say arrangement, though, doesn't give the true measure of Smith's inspired re-working of this well-loved piece. Clocking in at close to three times the length of the original, the saxophonist's version delivers an initial surprise by discarding the famous opening clarinet glissando (saved for later in the piece), the first of a host of original touches. While much of the added length is devoted to excellent soloing from all across the band, the new ensemble writing is equally compelling. THE IRISH TIMES ★★★★★ (5 stars) In tackling Gershwin's perennial, tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith took it into the jazz arena and rescored it for a standard eight brass, five reeds and four rhythm big band. He also reworked and re-ordered the original's sequence, and introduced a long closing section based on Gershwin's I Got Rhythm changes. Radical though the alterations are, they keep the original's spirit; the imaginatively referenced main themes are unifying elements in a performance more than three times the length of the original. It's a triumph for Smith, who is magisterial both as orchestrator and player. Other bright spots are pianist Brian Kellock's great links, an array of fine soloists, and the SNJO's aplomb with a demanding score that embraces blues, Cuban rhythm, stride, and some wry humour amid the high seriousness. In style, it's closest to the Buddy Rich big band; more to the point, there are no longueurs.