Rare East Neuk gig for renowned saxophonist Tommy Smith

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Renowned saxophonist Tommy Smith makes a rare visit to the East Neuk when he plays a solo concert at Crail Community Hall.

His gig on Sunday, November 13, is part of the Scotland on Tour project, which is taking music to venues across the country to help regenerate the live music scene following the pandemic - and it allows Smith to tick two boxes at once.

He said: “I’m always keen to play in places that I don’t get to visit in the normal round of touring,” says Smith.

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“But a lot of the appeal in playing in Crail Community Hall, for me, is that it’s a former church. This means it will almost certainly have acoustics that I can interact with.”

Tommy Smith (Pic: Derek Clark)Tommy Smith (Pic: Derek Clark)
Tommy Smith (Pic: Derek Clark)

Smith’s touring schedule in recent years has been largely focused on solo performances in cathedrals and abbeys.

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He has played in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and is due back there with artist Maria Rud in a new project, Luninescence, a few days after the Crail concert.

Dunfermline Abbey, Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire and Dunblane Cathedral are also recent ports of call.

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Churches and cathedrals, certainly the older ones, were designed to enable the human voice to carry without amplification and in solo concerts I’m essentially using the saxophone as my voice,” he said.

“The sound in these old stone buildings invariably reverberates, sometimes with quite a short echo, sometimes a bit longer. I love to play with and get to know the sound delay. It can make you play quite differently in every venue.”

Having toured the world with some of the biggest names in jazz, these days Smith is deeply involved in organising and encouraging other musicians.

He is currently artistic director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, director of his own youth jazz orchestra and head of the jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, and he sometimes has to consciously make time for his own career.

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For his concert in Crail, he’ll draw on the jazz, folk, classical, praise song and pop traditions.

“I generally have an idea of the first melody I’m going to play,” he says. “I don’t use microphones; I just play with the natural ambience and then musically go where the sound in the venue takes me.”

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