Tor Hammerø writes online from Norway about Jazz. Here, he describes the moment he was truly shaken up by a Modern Jacobite:
“Modern Jacobite – Tommy Smith/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
One of Arild Andersen’s closest fellow players, the outstanding saxophonist Tommy Smith, surprises (sometimes violently!) with ‘Modern Jacobite’ his freshest solo CD release to date.
Tommy Smith is (to my ears) one of the leading saxophonists in jazz today. As a teenager in his home country of Scotland, Smith was considered by many people to be an extraordinary talent. Aged only eighteen, he flew (alone) to Boston to attend the esteemed Berklee School of Music, where vibraphone guru Gary Burton was teaching. Burton is a leader who identifies young talent at a very early stage, and often invites them to perform in his band. It was with Burton that the likes of Pat Metheny first came to prominence.
Tommy Smith quickly showed the Americans that he was an exciting young player with an expressive style of his own. Smith toured North America with Burton’s group in the early 1980’s, but soon returned to his beloved Scotland where he built, and still enjoys, a tremendous reputation as a leading jazz man.
Here in Norway, I’ve have been lucky enough over the last decade to have heard him on numerous occasions; usually with master bassist Arild Andersen’s Trio, in which drummer/percussionist Paolo Vinaccia also plays a central role. Every time Smith’s huge personality, punch, unique tone and charisma hit me, I knew I was in the company of one of the greatest. There is such force in all he conveys that it is impossible not to be touched by it.
Even though I’ve had this privilege for years, it nevertheless has passed me by that Smith also has a commanding proficiency in classical music and composition. In fact, he’s been writing music for major orchestras, often with saxophone and himself as soloist since 1989. Moreover, Smith actually spent two years in Paris studying classical music in the1990’s.
In January last year, he received an offer to write music for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and by late May his thirty-minute, original symphonic work ‘Jacobite’ was ready for recording. It is a violent, dramatic, lyrical and exciting piece, largely inspired by a traumatic period in 18th century Scottish history.
Here, we bear witness to Smith’s great creativity, and he demonstrates that he is a composer, arranger – and soloist of course – who is capable of reaching the highest international standard.
The album opens with a lovely version of Rachmaninoff’s gorgeous ‘Vocalise’, and ends with a collection of Chick Corea’s “Children’s Songs” – all arranged with some new music by Smith himself.
Taken as a whole then, ‘Modern Jacobite’ is a startling masterpiece created by one of the great saxophonists of modern times, Tommy Smith.” – Tor Hammerø
A link to the review by Tor Hammerø in the original Norwegian.