As one of the highlights of the 2019 Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Spanish theme, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra presented a special one-off performance of Miles Davis’s moody and magnificent orchestral masterpiece, Sketches Of Spain, at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, with special guest, award-winning trumpet player and composer Laura Jurd, taking centre stage in the Miles Davis role. Released in 1960, the iconic Sketches Of Spain album is one of the finest examples of Miles Davis’s collaborations with arranger and composer Gil Evans and derives from the pair’s deep interest in Spanish classical and folk music.
With the addition of some guest classical musicians, the ranks of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) numbered over twenty for this performance and they received a very warm welcome to the stage, led by soloist Laura Jurd and conductor Tommy Smith.
Distant clicks of percussion ushered in the opening piece, Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio), where the orchestra’s effortlessly cool delivery of the elegant and slightly mournful melody was picked up by Laura Jurd in a series of tightly controlled and increasingly yearning flugelhorn solos. Will O’ The Wisp offered up similar delights, with Jurd’s lyrical, muted trumpet solos weaving in and out of this piece’s archetypal Spanish rhythms. In The Pan Piper, the orchestra set up a simple yet irresistible riff, over which Jurd’s trumpet soared majestically.
Saeta set graceful Moorish rhythms somewhat incongruously against fanfares of US military marching band music, but left space for a number of brilliantly intense and concentrated bursts of Jurd’s trumpet. The closing piece, Solea, was nothing short of a tour de force…Gil Evans’s original arrangement was tweaked to incorporate a powerhouse drum solo from Alyn Cosker, who then combined with bassist Calum Gourlay and the full orchestra to set up a wonderfully hypnotic groove as a platform for Laura Jurd to produce a succession of scorching trumpet solos, evoking perfectly the sensation of a blistering hot sun beating down mercilessly on arid Iberian plains. This stunning piece brought a standing ovation from sections of the audience and the inevitable encore came in the form of an extended and joyous take on So What, the opening tune from Kind Of Blue, another classic Miles Davis album from 1959. From the opening, instantly recognisable, bass and horn riffs to the towering solos delivered by Tommy Smith on tenor sax, Laura Jurd on trumpet and Calum Gourlay on double bass, this piece was a sheer delight, providing a richly satisfying finish to a memorable evening of music.