Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
with Georgia Cécile
This is a Communion
The concerts on this latest Scottish National Jazz Orchestra tour continue two relationships. There’s the connection that was formed briefly when Georgia Cécile joined us onstage at our Christmas concert in 2021. There’s also the partnership that Georgia has formed with the pianist, composer and arranger, Euan Stevenson over the past ten years.
When Georgia sang with us at the Queen’s Hall that December night, she was already an award-winning singer. Her debut album, Only the Lover Sings, which she co-wrote with and was arranged and orchestrated by Euan, had not only won the Album of the Year title at the Scottish Jazz Awards that year, it had also topped the UK Jazz & Blues Album Chart.
Further accolades have followed. The American singing star Gregory Porter invited Georgia to open his sold-out four-night run at the Royal Albert Hall in London and then, last October at the Jazz FM 2022 Awards, Georgia won the UK Jazz Act of the Year and the Vocalist of the Year titles. She has now also made herself at home at one of the world’s top jazz clubs, Ronnie Scott’s, where she recently sold out two special Valentine’s Day shows.
Born in Glasgow, Georgia grew up in a jazz-loving family. Her grandfather was a jazz pianist and she listened especially to Nina Simone, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder. On leaving school she studied law but dropped out after a year to pursue a career in music. She made the correct decision and as well as the Royal Albert Hall and Ronnie Scott’s, she has appeared at London, Cheltenham and Limerick Jazz Festivals and at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
In creating the music for these concerts, presented under the title of This is A Communion, Georgia and Euan have reached back into the history of jazz for inspiration as well as producing items of a contemporary hue and breathing new life into some of the songs from Only the Lover Sings.
The song This Is a Communion itself draws on the influence of the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, one of the most influential vocalists of the twentieth century whose work with Duke Ellington, in particular, has been an inspiration to Georgia. “It’s a song with a gospel-soul flavour,” she says. “We wanted to create something uplifting, give people something optimistic.”
Georgia certainly has reason to feel optimistic. She is, says SNJO director, Tommy Smith, “a gifted singer for our times. We’re really pleased to be working with her and Euan on a series of full concerts. Their creative partnership is based on the mutual sharing of thoughts, ideas, and feelings, all of which are the salient features of great orchestral jazz.”
Best known in jazz circles for co-leading the band New Focus with our own star saxophonist, Konrad Wiszniewski, Euan is a classically trained pianist with a degree in composition. He has had choral and orchestral works premiered on both sides of the Atlantic and his recent commissions include an arrangement of the Ukrainian National Anthem for the internationally respected violin virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman and the English Chamber Orchestra.
His jazz CV includes piano duets with David Newton, touring with guitarist Jim Mullen and an experience that makes him especially suitable as Georgia’s musical partner, accompanying the late singer Tina May, who described working with Euan’s resourcefulness and creativity as “a joy.”