The SNJO play Gil Evans / Miles Davis. Edinburgh, April 2017.

Tonight I saw the SNJO play two classic Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaborations, Sketches of Spain and Porgy & Bess. Two of the most famous pieces of jazz ever recorded, so familiar that they’re taken for granted. But rarely heard live: the last time I heard them live must have been when SNJO played the same programme about twenty years ago.

Tonight’s gig was superb. Such a wonderful sound. I sat with a broad smile through most of it, just pleased to be able to hear it again.

In Sketches of Spain, the lead trumpet was taken by Laura Jurd, who filled the role perfectly. Whilst keep close to Evans’ classic arrangement, three was still plenty of space for Jurd to improvise. I had forgotten how much of Sketches was just trumpet, bass and drums – and Calum Gourlay and Alyn Cosker made a great rhythm section behind Jurd. (No saxes, either!)

Porgy & Bess was just as good. This time it was Tom McNiven taking the lead, with trumpet and flugelhorn. This music as so familiar that at times I found myself singing along. Oh Doctor Jesus (Prayer) sent shivers down my spine. Summertime and Ain’t Necessarily So were the showstoppers one could expect. 

The adapted SNJO were superb. The extra instrumentation (harp, horns, flutes, clarinets …And a very good tuba, who made it sound easy!) seemed to fit right in. Evans’ arrangements are full of texture and nuance, and it all sounded wonderful.


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