Scottish Ensemble with Gwilym Simcock

City Halls, Glasgow, Thu 26 Apr; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Apr


Well known for its innovative programming, the Scottish Ensemble bring their 2006/07 season to a close with a collaboration that straddles the worlds of classical and jazz. Leading young jazz pianist and composer, Gwilym Simcock, joins the group as soloist for the first performances of his specially commissioned new piece, Point of Contact, for piano, vibraphone and strings. A recently appointed BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, 25 year-old Simcock started his training as a classical musician, studying piano with a view to becoming a concert pianist, and French horn, as well as composition. He moved to jazz at London’s Royal Academy of Music and hasn’t looked back since. ‘I got interested in jazz at Chetham’s School of Music,’ he says, ‘and just thought it was amazing. It has the elegance of classical concerts, but with the freedom to improvise. That really appealed to me and I knew then that that was what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to write music.’

In the new commission, his first for jazz and classical strings, Simcock is on piano with the astonishing young percussionist Ben Bryant on vibraphone. Both improvise within the structure of the piece, while the string players of the Scottish Ensemble play what is written on the page. ‘Improvisation and composition are so closely linked,’ says Simcock, ‘with one informing the other.’

In a career that has recently taken him to Germany one minute to work on his piano concerto with a big band there, and the next to Italy for recording sessions, a jazz club at home in London, his own big band at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival and, now, touring in Scotland with the Scottish Ensemble, Simcock is genuinely appreciative of the variety on offer. ‘It’s all very different and all extremely enjoyable. I really am very, very lucky.’

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