Gig review: SNJO: Stan Kenton, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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IN TAKING on the music of Stan Kenton, once again the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra demonstrated its ability to revisit classics without indulging in slavish repetition.

SNJO: Stan Kenton

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

* * * *

The American bandleader, in his day, took a determinedly contemporary approach to big band music which didn’t always please traditionalists. Here, however, the SNJO – with an augmented brass section – excelled in such Kenton-esque showcases as the ominously titled Concerto to End All Concertos with its vividly shifting tones and tempi. This featured, among other soloists, Konrad Wiszniewski’s querulously eloquent break on tenor sax and trumpeter Ryan Quigley leading the “screamers” that Kenton favoured in his brass sections.

There were short, sharp favourites such as Kenton’s best-known number, Peanut Vendor, with the trumpeters doubling as percussionists before a general eruption of horns and wonderfully devised discords, and the out-and-out joint-jumper Intermission Riff. Solos, too, tended to be short and sweet, with Ruaridh Pattison on alto sax, trombonist Chris Greive belling over the slinky Latin shuffle of Love for Sale, while the orchestra’s director, Tommy Smith, keened his way languidly through Jerome Kern’s Yesterdays.

Surprises included baritone saxist Bill Fleming giving a sweetly lugubrious rendition of Rhapsody in Blue, before it was grabbed by the collar and propelled smartly to a glowing conclusion.