Seonaid Aitken Ensemble ready for new release

Chasing Sakura is the hopeful new album from the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble, influenced by jazz, classical and folk music and due for release on Friday, 29 April.

The album, which features a stunning all-female ensemble, was written in response to a serious accident that award-winning violinist, vocalist and composer Seonaid Aitken faced during the pandemic and is her first record of entirely original material.

While healing from a riding accident, Seonaid was inspired by the cherry blossoms around Glasgow during regular walks, which gave her a source of peace and joy during an isolated time. The record also makes a connection with the symbolism of Japan’s cherry blossom season, which Seonaid admired when she lived there for 18 months.

Fife-born Seonaid Aitken is a versatile multi-instrumentalist and orchestrator based in Glasgow, specialising in Gypsy Jazz. Classically trained at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she has multiple Scottish Jazz Awards to her name. She has played regularly with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera for 21 years and performs extensively with her band Rose Room.

The busy session musician has appeared, performed or recorded with musicians like Deacon Blue, Carol Kidd MBE, Eddi Reader and iconic American composer Burt Bacharach, and played violin and viola in the 2019-2022 touring production of Disney’s The Lion King. She also presents BBC Radio Scotland’s Jazz Nights and has been commissioned by several national orchestras and had work featured in TV adaptations and theatre productions.

Chasing Sakura was originally commissioned by Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival last summer and features members of the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble – Seonaid Aitken on violin and vocals, Katrina Lee on violin, Patsy Reid on viola and Alice Allen on cello. Seonaid’s fellow improvising members Emma Smith on bass and Helena Kay on tenor saxophone and flute also bring their musicianship to the album.

Seonaid Aitken

Seonaid said: ‘In the spring of 2021, I was recovering from a serious horse-riding accident where I broke my pelvis, ankle, small vertebrae and ribs. I would go for walks around Glasgow chasing cherry blossoms and it reminded me of my time in Japan and how I was inspired by the way they celebrate the beauty and symbolism of the sakura season with Hanami – the traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of the flowers. The record draws inspiration from the lifespan of the cherry blossom to symbolise overall themes of hope, optimism and impermanence.

‘The record is crossover music which doesn’t adhere to one particular genre – rather takes influences from many. I wanted to document the work which I wrote with the skillsets of this incredible team of musicians in mind.’

Singles include Impermanence (released last ), a dramatic and rhythmical number, and Beauty & Wonder (released on Friday 8 April), the only piece written for string quartet with a lilting, jazz-waltz flavour.

Elsewhere tracks such as Hanami, a positive, folk-infused melody, and Chasing Sakura, a driving and triumphant composition, draw inspiration from the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. Other standout tracks include the delicate Spring Song, featuring Seonaid’s enchanting vocals and The Walk, an upbeat, jazzy track with the energy and sound of a 1920s speakeasy.

Chasing Sakura was made thanks to funding from Creative Scotland and PRS Women Make Music. It will be available to buy on limited-edition CD and stream and download on Friday 29 April.

The ensemble will perform the album at shows across Scotland including Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Skye and Fort William.

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