Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Exploration

**** (4 stars)

SAXOPHONIST Tommy Smith launched this big band, at his own expense, in 2002 to help foster the cream of young Scottish jazz talent, and their debut recording amply illustrates the depth of that talent. Bolstered by some section leaders from the senior Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the band were joined by American vibes maestro Joe Locke as a dazzling guest soloist for a brief Scottish tour in February. Sponsorship from Shell UK enabled both tour and recording (thus the title). The six tracks are typical of their imaginative repertoire, mixing fresh versions of jazz warhorses Cottontail and A Night in Tunisia with contemporary compositions by Kenny Wheeler, Lars Jansson and Fred Sturm.

Equally at home on the exuberant country-inflected idiom of Oliver Nelson’s boisterous Hoedown and the reflective intricacies of Wheeler’s Gentle Piece, the players produce precise and assured ensemble work and imaginative soloing at every turn.

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