Tonight’s concert in the Queen’s Hall was billed as Scottish National Jazz Orchestra featuring Eddi Reader, so I went along expecting Eddi to be only on stage for some numbers, but to my great delight she was on stage and performing for the entire concert.
I’ve always thought of Eddi as being a traditional/folk singer, so I was intrigued to find out how her songs would work with the SNJO, and the answer is that the arrangements were very different but they worked incredibly well. A jazz version of “Auld Lang Syne” may well be impossible to imagine, but when you hear it played you wonder why no-one thought of doing it before.
Many of the works tonight were songs by Burns, which Eddi has performed many times before, including Ae Fond Kiss, John Anderson My Jo, and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, but the new arrangements give them an entirely different sound. I was pleased that on several songs, Eddi did sing a cappella in parts, with the orchestra then joining in, so her beautiful voice could still be heard unaccompanied.
As always, the songs and the meanings behind them were brought to life by Eddi’s introductions and stories. Eddi’s Robert Burns isn’t the romanticised version that is often portrayed, but an ordinary lusty young man with a great liking for the ladies, albeit one with an incredible gift for poetry. Despite his poems being written over 200 years ago, the sentiments of many of them are still as relevant today, especially those that speak of love, whether it’s the love of one person for another, or the love of Scotland.
Aside from Burns, there were other songs I wasn’t familiar with, such as Deirdre’s Farewell to Scotland, Loch Tay Boat Song and Glen of Tranquility, the latter composed by Tommy Smith to Edwin Morgan’s poetry, which I’m sure will become a “standard” in years to come.
Although I must admit I’m not a huge jazz fan, I have heard some of the SNJO’s musicians play before, particularly Konrad Wiszniewski (saxophone) and Calum Gourlay (bass). Under the direction of their creator and founder, Tommy Smith, they bring together world-class musicians to create wonderful music, and are now in their 20th anniversary year. Not bad for a boy from Wester Hailes who says he is “still a schemie inside”!
This show was a “one night only” performance in Edinburgh, but Eddi Reader tours regularly, and the SJNO will be back at the Queen’s Hall on 18th September with special guest Benny Golson. They are also planning a Glenn Miller special later on too.
You can find out more about Eddi Reader at www.eddireader.co.uk and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra at www.snjo.co.uk