Gig review: SNJO with Makoto Ozone, Edinburgh

Jazz and classical music can be uneasy bedfellows, but bringing them together is just the kind of challenge that Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra relish, and both works that made up this sparkling programme demonstrated that it can be done very successfully.

International star: Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone

SNJO with Makoto Ozone - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone is an international star these days, but he and Smith go all the way back to their student days at Berklee College in the late 1980s. When Smith suggested a commission on a classical theme, the pianist immediately opted for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major.

His take on the piece flipped between Mozart and both classic and contemporary jazz idioms in dazzling fashion, and threw in plenty of good-humoured diversions along the way. He retained the three movement structure and the distinctive features of the work largely intact, and the shifts in idiom were deftly handled both in his own virtuoso playing at the piano, and in his arrangement for big band, which provided several opportunities for other soloists, including Smith’s tenor saxophone, Ruraidh Pattison on alto saxophone, trombonist Chris Greive, trumpeter Tom Walsh, bassist Calum Gourley and even drummer Alyn Cosker, something not often heard in a Mozartian context.

A hugely enjoyable show was rounded out with Ozone in the solo role in Smith’s epic and newly refreshed and refined re-working of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, sounding as fresh and exciting as ever.

Seen on 26.04.14