The SNJO & Arild Andersen play Mingus

One, Two uh uh uh…No one starts a tune like Mingus.  His music is often meaty, frenetic and occasionally oddly named.  The tunes contain humour, nods to classical music and they have a bluesy swing.  It only took about 3 seconds for my head to start bobbing to the beat at the SNJO concert on Friday night.  It was great to see Allon Beauvoisin join the orchestra on baritone sax alongside special guest Arild Andersen from Norway on the acoustic double bass. As a lover of the lower notes and deeper toned instruments Mingus is a favourite of mine as he seems to explore these sounds a bit more than some other jazz composers.

Notable tunes of the night were Song with Orange, All the Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother, Moanin’ and an encore rendition of Ecclesiastes.  The orchestra vocalised and wooped (as they had promised they would), they clapped and laughed. The talent of the orchestra shone through the various and numerous solos played.  It was a particular treat to hear and feel Beauvoisin on the baritone in Moanin’ (short clip here) and Smith and Wiszniewski play their tenor saxes on Ecclesiastes.  Arild has played with the SNJO before and there seems to be a very good vibe when they play together.  His melodic bass lines fit well with the band’s style and he really looks like a musician who enjoys playing with the SNJO. I love hearing him play.

The Queens Hall was well attended with an enthusiastic audience who cheered and gave a round of applause when we were informed, by Tommy Smith,  that he had taken a call that day from Lothian Council who explained they would not be cutting the music funding for music tuition in their schools. I love a bit of chat at live gigs and there was a lot of positive, good humoured chat at this one. Great tunes, great vibes, great audience. The night was a success.

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Glasgow Jazz Festival ‘Come and Try’ session

This 40 minute long session for children in the recital rooms at the Glasgow City Halls was pitched just right for the younger ones.  Most of the kids attending were probably well below age 9 and attended with enthusiastic parents.   As a parent I take my hat off to Glasgow Jazz Festival for having sessions such as this and other family friendly events  in their programme. In the current climate of of cuts to music lessons in schools I feel affordable sessions like this are important to expose the young ones to as much live music and music education as possible so we went along.

Paul Towndrow and Michael Owers led this interactive session for children. The promise was they could take part in a fun-filled music lesson with two of the top jazz musicians on the Scottish music scene.  Both Paul and Michael perform in multi-award winning four piece horn section Brass Jaw and are integral members of Scotland’s flagship jazz orchestra, The SNJO as well as being involved in other music projects. Towndrow has toured and performed with a wide range of artists including Ben E King, Jack Bruce and Martha Reeves, with Owers has played alongside the likes of Capercaillie, Hue and Cry and Texas.

We were treated to a potted history of the roots of jazz and told what improvisation is with excellent examples including a story about Spiderman stuck down a well!  (You can see a short video of that here).  We also learned about the different types of instruments that are popularly played by jazz musicians  and we were treated to the story of the drum kit (which is a thing that jazz musicians invented apparently). Then the main, noisy attraction, getting to play the instruments!  Some tips on how to use your mouth and facial muscles to get the correct position on the mouthpiece and we were off! There were a few naturals in the room and lots of effort and enthusiasm was displayed by the wee ones.