SNJO in Full Flow as Rivers of Art and Jazz Meet

Where Rivers Meet

From: 12 May 2021

To: 16 May 2021

St Giles Cathedral
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO)’s opening night of an inspired pairing of free jazz and visual art, sees Ornette Coleman’s complex compositions tackled with aplomb by saxophonist Paul Towndrow. His performance is focussed and lyrical, delighting in Coleman’s wiry textures and soaring melodies. The hugely gifted orchestra who sound vibrant and tight amid acoustics that feel surprisingly warm for such a stony setting, tackle Tommy Smith’s penetrating arrangements with acuity.

Meanwhile, the famed West Window is showered by Russian artist Maria Rud’s evolving and dissolving images created as the set progresses. Using a light box which is projected onto the stained glass wall she responds to the music with a palette of oranges, yellows, ochres and reds, inventing an endless supply of svelte figures which rise up and dissipate as the concert progresses. A hobgoblin morphs into a towering female head overlooking a ghostly male figure, only to be swept away with sponges and dabs into the shape of a giant soaring dove swooping over the orchestra and heading toward the sun. The improvised images are as ephemeral as the melodies.

Three further performances on consecutive nights are a must for jazz and art enthusiasts, featuring new arrangements of works by Dewey Redman, Anthony Braxton, and Albert Ayler.

With grateful thanks to Malcolm McGonigle for this review. Images SNJO, courtesy Tommy Smith.

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