SNJO plays Steely Dan


Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Tue 24 Jun


The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra have always covered a wide-ranging repertoire, from swing era staples such as Ellington, Basie and Goodman through to newly commissioned arrangements and compositions from cutting-edge contemporary jazz writers. Their latest outing, Do It Again: Three Decades of Steely Dan, will take them into new territory even by their omnivorous standards.

Mind you, if any of the great rock bands of the 70s offered themselves as prime contenders for jazz treatment, Steely Dan would probably be top of the list. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s compositions lend themselves to sophisticated arrangements, and the band’s music often had a distinct hint of jazz running through it anyway.

Saxophonist Tommy Smith, the director of the SNJO, explained that the arrangements that will be played in the concert are by American composer Fred Sturm. The music has a major role for a guitar soloist that will be filled by Graeme Scott.

‘I’m a huge fan of Fred Sturm – whatever this guy arranges turns to gold, and if it was gold before it’s now chocolate. He is fantastic. Whether it’s Steely Dan or Astor Piazzolla, Fred Sturm truly understands how to make a jazz orchestra expressive and sing.’

The eleven chronologically-presented arrangements they will play were originally commissioned by the Hessischer Rundfunk Big Band in Frankfurt, and recorded in 2003. They stretch from ‘Do It Again’ from 1972 through to ‘Two Against Nature’ from 2000, and include material from Can’t Buy a Thrill, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Aja, Gaucho, Two Against Nature and Fagen’s The Nightfly. Sturm has approached the music in the spirit of creative re-composition rather than straightforward orchestration of the existing material.

‘Fred claims that his voice as a pop composer evolved a step behind each new Becker and Fagen recording,’ said Smith. ‘He admits to taking liberties with the tunes, but cites the fact that when the Woody Herman band did some Steely Dan material in the 80s, Fagen and Becker preferred the ones that took the most creative approach to their tunes.’

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra Play Steely Dan

Tommy Smith leads the cream of Scotland's big band talent through three decades of Steely Dan.

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