The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra playing “The Glenn Miller Sound” – as a long time Glenn Miller fan and a SNJO fan, this evening’s music was just a perfect combination for me.
Tommy Smith and the SNJO were on fantastic form here, in what was an evening filled with some of the biggest hits from the Glenn Miller back catalogue played in wonderful style but still with a light enough touch from Tommy as he introduced the music throughout to keep this a very friendly and light hearted show. The SNJO were enjoying playing this music and that showed in every tune.
Although Glenn Miller did compose (along with Mitchell Parish) the immortal “Moonlight Serenade”, his great strength was as an arranger and finally finding that unique “Glenn Miller Sound” to wrap around existing tunes and make them his own classics.
It’s always difficult to write a review like this without getting too involved in the original subject matter, but in this case you have to. There is so much already out there about Glenn Miller (just do a quick Google search) that this review can add little to that, and this review is about the SNJO more than Glenn Miller, but they are interwoven for this show.
Tommy Smith is, as many of you will know the founder of the SNJO and it is a huge tribute to him that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2015. He is also, from the shows I have seen, a very generous band leader and always makes sure that individual soloists and everyone in the band are given full credits on stage. There is always an atmosphere of musicians just enjoying being together and playing too with the SNJO and that joy of the music really came over tonight. Also nice to watch and listen to was the playful banter at times between Tommy and Brian Kellock on piano.
This relaxed atmosphere gave everyone in a pretty packed Queen’s Hall a great evening of great music that included many Glenn Miller standards , including some of my favourites – “American Patrol”, “String of Pearls”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, “In The Mood” and of course “Moonlight Serenade”.
“Moonlight Seranade” is not just a tune or a piece of music to me, but one of those rare occasions where the whole feel of a time and place just seems to be captured forever in a few minutes of sound. We can’t forget either an amazing rendition of “St Louis Blues March” with an outstanding display of drumming from Alyn Cosker.
If I pick out a few names from the SNJO roster in this review, it is not an oversight to anyone else. The thing about the SNJO is that it is a wonderful sound composed of great musicians and everyone plays a part in creating that sound.
Providing vocal accompaniment on some numbers in this show were a young vocal group of students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland called “The Piperoos” – taking their name I assume from a Glenn Miller tune played tonight – (I’ve Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo, and a line from it “Oh what a girl, a real Piperoo”. Their line up consists of Ailie Anderson, Duncan Brown, Julian Capolei, Dimitri Gripari and Will Kinnon. I am sure we will hear a lot more from them individually in years to come, especially that great voice of Ailie Anderson. It was also nice to see The SNJO give this young group such a high profile platform to play on .
If anything could possibly have improved the evening it would have been a setting in a classic 1940s dance hall with the floor full of people dancing to Glenn Miller’s music, but all of that was certainly evoked in our minds anyhow as we listened to great music, a great band and it played in a venue like The Queen’s Hall that is blessed with great natural acoustics.
Oddly enough, there still seem to be some people out there that never fully accept “The Glenn Miller Sound” as Jazz music and I hope these shows by The SNJO help some people change their mind on that. Whatever you want to call it, this is simply great music, and the ability of jazz to absorb music from an almost never ending source of musical styles is in the end its great enduring strength.
If you want to find out more about the SNJO and its musicians visit their website at http://snjo.co.uk/
Review by Tom King