The new Scottish National Jazz Orchestra concert season begins in earnest next month with Norse Myths.
This is an astonishing journey into strange magical realms and extraordinary new adventures in jazz. This new commission sourced ancient narratives, improvisational instincts and Nordic folk song to create this unique and utterly beguiling experience in modern music.
It’s an offering fit for gods and goddesses alike, further enhanced by the presence of European jazz giants: Arild Andersen (bass), Paolo Vinaccia (drums/percussion), and SNJO director Tommy Smith (saxophone).
Together, they are long established and widely recognized as a cutting edge trio in their own right, and a major force in frontier jazz.
In Norse Myths, they bring their unquestionable artistry, experience and collective understanding to this treasure trove of rich and evocative material. Combined with the SNJO’s quality and power, it is hard to imagine a group of jazz musicians more qualified to give the Norse Gods musical shape and form.
SNJO regulars will be familiar with the work of guest composers Florian Ross, Geoffrey Keezer and Bill Dobbins, who have all contributed many commissioned arrangements to the orchestra’s repertoire. They are joined on this project by Norwegian jazz stalwart Øyvind Brække to create stunning new music from the DNA of melodies that are very old and just a little bit mysterious.
Scottish audiences can be forgiven if they are unfamiliar with Nordic songs and hymnals, but the Norse deities, who here provide the thematic premise, are well known. They are part of a European bardic tradition that has been passed down through the centuries, and translated many times for the audiences of the day.
Certainly, the life and death struggles of fickle gods, charismatic goddesses and belligerent giants strongly persist in modern storytelling, not least as a mirror of the human experience.
Odin, his wife Frigg, Thor and Loki are enigmatic, if not contradictory, characters with the capacity to fire the imagination, whatever form they take. They are ideal subjects for contemporary, shapeshifting music based on tunes like the lovely Et Lidet Barn Saa Lystelight (A
Little Child So Merry), or the jaunty Ragnhild, the maid who was much admired from afar.
If the melodic elements in these musical portraits suggest a Celtic, Gaelic, or even an Old English connection, then this is not entirely coincidental. Norse Myths is a musical quest that illustrates how new ideas can be forged from free exchanges in a common language.
Here, the language is jazz, with a distinctly Nordic accent yet Celtic feel.
Friday, 22 March: Aberdeen Jazz Festival, Queen’s Cross Church AB10 1YN (01224) 644742.
Saturday, 23 March 2019: Edinburgh, Queen’s Hall, EH8 9JG (0131) 668.
Sunday, 24 March 2019: Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall (New Auditorium) G2 3DB (0141) 353 8000.