Leading jazz duo Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock play Eden Court Theatre and Lyth Arts Centre near Wick at the end of June.
Saxophonist Smith and pianist Kellock have worked together extensively over a long period, having known each other since the 1980s when they emerged on the Scottish jazz scene, Smith as the gifted teenager who released his first album, Giant Strides, in 1983 and Kellock as the energetic talent with blues singer Tam White and the John Rae Collective.
After studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston, Smith went on to join Gary Burton’s “Whiz Kids” quintet, record for Blue Note Records, found and direct the internationally acclaimed Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, and tour the world with Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen’s trio while Kellock became established as one of the UK’s finest jazz pianists and the big-swinging go-to accompanist for myriad visiting American soloists including saxophonists Stanley Turrentine, Scott Hamilton and Herb Geller, singer Sheila Jordan, and bebop legend Charlie Parker’s former frontline partner, trumpeter Red Rodney.
As well as recording three duo albums on Smith’s Spartacus label, the most recent being last year’s The Whispering of the Stars, and touring together on both sides of the Atlantic, Smith and Kellock have together been central to several of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s most successful projects, including the orchestra’s recent tour with singer Kurt Elling.
On discovering by chance that Kellock had performed George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as a music student in Edinburgh, Smith re-orchestrated the work specifically for his duo partner as featured soloist.
The resultant album, Rhapsody in Blue Live, recorded at Edinburgh Jazz Festival in 2006, helped to extend both the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Kellock’s international reputation. The orchestra’s Ellington celebration, In the Spirit of Duke, on which Kellock took the ducal role under Smith’s musical direction, followed in 2013 and received similarly widespread acclaim.
In concert, with Smith matching Kellock’s encyclopaedic repertoire of jazz standards, they can go spontaneously to almost anywhere in the jazz canon the mood takes them and their relaxed, natural onstage rapport adds to the entertainment.
Thanks to Rob Adams for the article.