Composer-arranger Mantwill resumes SNJO collaboration
Fabia Mantwill (publicity shot)
Berlin-based Fabia Mantwill resumes her collaboration with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra via the internationally acclaimed ensemble’s latest project, Nu-Age Sounds, from 1st to 3rd March.
A showcase for Scotland’s exciting young jazz scene, Nu-Age Sounds features new music by musicians including pianist Fergus McCreadie, saxophonists Helena Kay and Matt Carmichael, trombonists Noushy (Anoushka Nanguy) and Liam Shortall (aka corto,alto) and BBC Young Jazz Musician 2022, bassist Ewan Hastie.
Mantwill, who previously worked with the SNJO on its Apparition Bridge song cycle with singer Kurt Elling, is arranging the music of Noushy and the songs of another of Scotland’s trailblazers, the singer kitti, who like all the participants in Nu-Age Sounds is a multi-award winner.
A singer herself, Mantwill is particularly keen on the possibilities of direct communication that songs offer.
“With my own music, I aim to bring people together, offering a sense of hope and direction,” she says. “The core of my work as a composer and conductor is the fluid exchange both among the musicians within the ensemble and with the audience, blending diverse art forms and styles and creating moments where people come together and connect with each other.”
As the musical director for a two-month Musicians without Borders project in Ghana in 2015, Mantwill says she witnessed the transformative power of music in fostering unity and understanding.
“Music, for me, is a communal give-and-take,” she says. ”It’s an art form that connects people in ways nothing else can.”
Although her parents were not musicians, they were music enthusiasts and so Mantwill grew up with music. She went to a musical kindergarten and by the age of six she was taking classical piano lessons. Dissuaded from studying the violin by her folks, she took saxophone lessons instead from the age of ten.
The ensemble that she formed in 2017 reflects both her upbringing in the European classical tradition and the musical curiosity that drew her to jazz, folk music, the singer-songwriter genre and indie music. Following its well-received debut, EM.PERIENCE, her ensemble releases its second album, featuring guests including clarinettist Anat Cohen and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, this spring.
Before that, though, she has her SNJO commissions to deliver.
“I’m thrilled to be involved in the NU AGE SOUNDS program and to collaborate with the SNJO again,” she says. “The first time I worked with the orchestra I arranged Becca Stevens’ Ophelia with the amazing Kurt Elling. This time I’m arranging a longer piece that incorporates three of kitti’s songs.”
Having listened to the Scottish singer’s work before she began to think about how she wanted to present her songs, Mantwill rates kitti very highly.
“Her soulful and touching voice reminds me a bit of Aretha Franklin, which is something I definitely want to capture in the arrangement,” she says. “But most important for me is to emphasise and colour kitti’s personal stories. And being able to use the rich and diverse sound palette of the SNJO for that is, of course, fantastic.”
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Nu-Age Sounds tours to Dundee Rep Theatre on Friday 1st March before going on to the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd March and the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Sunday 3rd March.
All hail to Louis the First
Louis Stewart (promotional photo)
The re-activated Livia Records, which is releasing Irish jazz guitar virtuoso Louis Stewart's back catalogue, will release issue Stewart's debut album, Louis the First on March 5th.
Recorded in 1975 with bassist Martin Walshe and drummer John Wadham, the album captures Stewart just as he joined saxophonist and jazz club proprietor Ronnie Scott's quartet, having previously starred with saxophonist Tubby Hayes and clarinettist Benny Goodman.
The original eight tracks, which included trios, a guitar and bass duet of Body and Soul and solo guitar pieces, will be augmented by a previously unreleased trio recording of Wayne Shorter's Footprints.
Livia Records have already released Stewart's classic 1977 solo album, Out on His Own, and a previously undiscovered duo recording by Stewart and pianist Noel Kelehan. Out on His Own has also been reissued on vinyl. Other releases are planned.
Jazz and traditional music on bill at Linlithgow
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay (promotion photo)
Red Door Promotions in Linlithgow have lined up a series of jazz and traditional music concerts to be held in St Peter’s Church from March through to June.
Saxophonists Graham Walker and John Burgess and the duos of fiddler Chris Stout and harper Catriona McKay and smallpipes player Brighde Chaimbeul and fiddler Aidan O'Rourke will be playing in the intimate church on Linlithgow High Street.
Graham Walker brings two of Scotland’s young jazz stars, guitarist Kevin Henderson and bassist Ali Watson on Friday March 15th.
“Graham lives locally but was based in Belgium for many years and worked at a fairly high level on the scene over there,” says Red Door’s Robin Connelly. “He’s opened concerts for us before so we thought it was time to give him his own concert with Ali, whom people might know from saxophonist Matt Carmichael’s band, and Kevin, another of the many great young players who are emerging in Glasgow these days.”
John Burgess pays his first visit to St Peter’s with keyboardist Campbell Normand on Friday April 19th.
“John is a marvellously versatile player who absolutely excels on ballads,” says Robin Connelly. “He’s played on both sides of the Atlantic, studied with the great American saxophonist Joe Henderson and worked with Alan Skidmore, who is a real hero of the British jazz scene. John is playing a programme of Standards, Ballads and Blues and we’re looking forward to hearing his wonderfully rich tone and tremendously accomplished, classy musicianship in the intimate setting of St Peter’s.
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay return after two previous triumphs at St Peter's on Friday May 3rd, and Brìghde Chaimbeul & Aidan O’Rourke, who appear in Friday June 7th.
“These are really outstanding duos,” says Robin Connelly. “We’re particularly pleased to be presenting them as they’ll make it a tremendous finish to the series.”
Red Door concerts are sponsored by Veitch Solicitors & Notaries and tickets are available from Eventbrite.
Orchestra of top young talents celebrates 21st anniversary
TSYJO alumna saxophonist Helena Kay (photo by Benjamin Ealovega)
The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra completes its twenty-first year with concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh in March.
A band whose past members include some of the biggest talents in Scottish jazz today, TSYJO has nurtured musicians including Scottish Album of the Year Award 2022 winner and Mercury Music Prize nominee, pianist Fergus McCreadie.
BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2022, bassist Ewan Hastie, and Scottish Jazz Awards 2023 winners, saxophonist Matt Carmichael and trombonist Liam Shortall, as well as former Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, saxophonist Helena Kay, are also TSYJO alumni.
The orchestra was founded by internationally acclaimed saxophonist Tommy Smith in 2002 to provide a free educational opportunity for Scotland’s best young jazz musicians.
“I was aware that there were a lot of young musicians coming through, and I wanted to give them, not just a platform to play on, but also the chance to play music that would challenge and help them to develop without the need to pay for the opportunity,” says Smith.
Playing in TSYJO is effective training as several of the musicians who are currently appearing with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra emerged through the youth orchestra.
“The music the young musicians play in TSYJO is the same music – the same parts and arrangements – that their older colleagues in the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra have played in concert and on record,” says Smith.
This policy has led to TSYJO achieving success in the recording industry with three albums released that have all received enthusiastic reviews from leading jazz critics and publications internationally.
Smith says, “We can guarantee that the audience will hear orchestral jazz played with skill, verve and exuberance. Our current members include pianist Ben Shankland, who won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the Year title in November. So, based on this and past examples, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that these concerts are a chance to hear the future of jazz in Scotland and beyond.”
The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra plays Drygate, Glasgow on Saturday March 9th and St Brides, Edinburgh on Sunday March 10th.