Orchestra Fills St Giles’ Cathedral with Colour and Expression

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra is presenting its most ambitious event so far to be streamed online from May 12 to 15.

Where Rivers Meet celebrates the blues-driven, unfettered expression, spirit and excitement of jazz’s 1960s revolutionary “New Thing” through music and live visual art filmed in the architecturally striking setting of Edinburgh’s 12th century St Giles Cathedral.

Combining the visionary musical ideas of saxophonists Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman and Anthony Braxton with the arranging talents of American pianist-composer Geoffrey Keezer, Tommy Smith, Paul Towndrow and Paul Harrison, the project features four outstanding saxophone soloists and the vividly expressive creations of Russian painter and multi-media artist Maria Rud.

Smith (tenor saxophone), Towndrow (alto), Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor) and Martin Kershaw (alto) take the solo spotlight on potent suites of Ayler, Coleman, Redman and Braxton’s music respectively as Rud responds with characteristically rich, soulful images.

“This concert is all about expression, the deepest emotion of our inner voice,” says Smith. “To reach that space where we summon heart and spirit, the soloists must bare their souls – that was the challenge and the achievement of much of the best of the free jazz of the 1960s and beyond. And that’s what we’re after here.” 

The seeds of Where Rivers Meet were sown when Smith, the SNJO’s founder and director, met Maria Rud at an event in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2012. Rud, discovering Smith’s passion for the visual arts, as evinced by his 1995 quartet recording, Azure, inspired by the Catalan painter, printmaker and sculptor Joan Miró, suggested that they might one day work together.

Nine years later, they are adding to the SNJO’s extensive body of internationally regarded work with a piece that resonantly captures the meeting of music, art and individual and collective creativity.

“For me,” says Rud, “Where Rivers Meet is one of the most creatively challenging projects I’ve worked on to date. The depth and the improvisational nature of the music awakens new imagery. To collaborate with Tommy Smith and SNJO in St. Giles Cathedral with its interior as a “canvas” is a great creative privilege.” 

Where Rivers Meet is available online from 12 – 15 May at 7.30 pm each night.

To buy tickets and watch online visit: livestream.snjo.co.uk 

Adam Roberts

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