Internationally acclaimed Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith brings his new quartet to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, September 28 as part of a UK tour that includes a concert at the world famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.
The tour marks two anniversaries.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of jazz icon and Smith’s greatest inspiration, saxophonist John Coltrane.
It is also Smith’s fiftieth birthday year and he celebrated this with a sold-out, rapturously received concert in his home town during Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July.
A presence on the global jazz scene since his teenage years with vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Whiz Kids quintet, Smith has recorded for two of the most prestigious record labels in jazz, Blue Note and ECM Records.
He keeps a busy diary and when he’s not working with his own groups, directing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and overseeing the jazz programme he established at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, he tours the world with Norwegian bass master Arild Andersen’s trio, which is widely regarded as one of the premier jazz groups working today.
His new quartet was formed specifically to play the music of Coltrane, a challenge Smith describes as daunting, as well as some new pieces written by Smith in homage to his hero.
“I recorded one of Coltrane’s tunes on my very first album, Giant Strides when I was sixteen, but I’ve never felt ready to do his music justice with a full tribute concert before,” he says.
“I’m not sure I’m ready now, because Coltrane was so far ahead of his time but these musicians I have with me are some of the best I’ve ever played with and they really inspire me to try and take my playing to the next level.”
The quartet features former Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum drummer, Sebastiaan de Krom, the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2012, pianist Peter Johnstone, and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra bassist Calum Gourlay and released its first album, Embodying the Light, to rave reviews in July.
In concert they play without amplification, an approach that Smith has long favoured in his well-established duo with pianist Brian Kellock and one he prefers to follow whenever possible.
“I’ve nothing against amplified music,” he says,
“but it feels more natural to play acoustically. It makes us listen to each other more carefully and the audience gets to hear the true sounds of the instruments and the band – we sound the way we are.”
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