Seonaid Aitken Ensemble – ‘Chasing Sakura’ – London Jazz News
Seonaid Aitken Together – Chasing Sakura
(Self-published. SMA03. Review by Fiona Mactaggart)
If a ray of spring sunshine is what you’re looking for, this is it. Glasgow-based violinist and singer Seonaid Aitken created one of the most uplifting albums of this season.
While recovering from a serious accident last spring, Aitken found some relief walking through Glasgow’s parks at a time when the cherry blossoms (in Japanese, ‘sakura’) were bursting. It was then that the idea for this album first occurred to him and, following a commission from the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, Aitken composed the music for this jazz-folk cross album. -gender. The premiere took place at the 2021 festival.
Ten tracks trace the life of the cherry blossom, with a brief tremolo then blossoming like a flower in Awakening, to the final track Hanami (Reprise), a reference to the Japanese tradition of picnicking under cherry blossoms. This song is a final sweet reminder to “seize the day”.
The eight tracks in between also showcase the talents of this fine string ensemble, Aitken’s violin style in particular reminiscent of Stéphane Grappelli on several occasions. Helen KayThe tenor saxophone and flute add even more color and interest to the improvisation.
Melodious Chasing Sakura the breezes along, Emma Smith‘s bass providing much of the momentum. swinging waltz Beauty and Wonder showcase Pigeon ReidAitken’s viola and violin, while Hanami it looks like the musicians are having a merry party, with the cellist of the scottish folk musicians Alice Allen and Reid in the lead, then with Kay’s sax joining in on the fun.
On the other hand, the fifth track spring song has Aitken’s soothing, wordless vocalizations over pizzicato strings. This song, inspired by Sarah Vaughan little fingeris lightly colored by Kay’s sax and represents a point of calm in the album. The walk has a brighter sax from Kay and a violin reminiscent of Aitken’s Grappelli, it’s the hobbling gait, Aitken’s humorous reference to her own situation as she slowly recovers from her injuries.
half tempo Snowstorm Sakura is followed by a dive and a flight Impermanence – an allusion to the Japanese concept of ‘mono no know’. Renaissance looking forward to next spring, and featuring Katrina Leethe sweeping fiddle, it somehow manages at times to sound both raspy and fishy simultaneously.
The album cover has beautiful and evocative artwork from the bassist, synesthete and artist Kirsty Matheson. Its winding blue ribbons embellished with colorful flowers against a dark background feel quite appropriate as a visual representation of this generous and sunny album. Sound engineer Stuart Hamilton did a great job making sure all the instruments sounded great.
Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh and writes about music at Scottishjazzspace.co.uk
Composition of the ensemble: Seonaid Aitken (violin and vocals), Katrina Lee (violin), Patsy Reid (viola), Alice Allen (cello), Emma Smith (bass), Helena Kay (tenor sax and flute).