RSAMD, 25th November 2006

This was excellent – some of Scotland’s top jazz musicians playing music by Dizzy Gillespie’s short-lived big band of the late 1940s. What struck me about was how up-to-date the material sounded: unlike some of the other recreation projects the SNJO have done, the soloists were able to play in their normal styles and it fit into the music perfectly naturally. Ryan Quigley and Tom McNiven took most of the trumpet solos, with Quigley doing most of the high note stuff and also playing conga on “A Night in Tunisia”. Chris Grieve took the trombone solos, Martin Kershaw and Paul Towndrow split the alto solos between them, and leader Tommy Smith shared the tenor ones with Konrad Wiszniewski.

I wonder if Dizzy Gillespie’s penchant for clowning on the band stand has led to people underestimating just what a significant figure he was: not only was he an excellent trumpeter, but much of the material the band played remains fresh to this day – “Woody ‘n’ You”, “Groovin’ High”, “Manteca” – classics every one of them.

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