A Night to Remember
In a captivating performance at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on May 28th, 2023, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) joined forces with the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers. This unique collaboration, first initiated in 2010, showcased the fascinating blend of modern big band jazz with the ancient Japanese art of taiko, a ritualized and stylized form of percussion.
Under the direction of SNJO’s Tommy Smith, this unusual fusion produced a night of compelling, exciting, and powerful music that captivated the audience. Smith composed music that incorporated traditional Japanese melodies while maintaining high standards for jazz writing. The result was an orchestral arrangement with a rich interplay between the band sections and the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers.
The three drummers of Mugenkyo Taiko were positioned stage right, displaying their impressive array of drums and percussion. The fourteen SNJO members were crowded on the other side of the stage, creating an unusual arrangement. At the center of it all, Alyn Cosker played a pivotal role on his drum kit, bringing the worlds of jazz and Japanese percussion together.
A Rhythmic Journey
The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers demonstrated both flexibility and endurance throughout the performance. Their syncopated pulses added to the SNJO’s natural swing, complementing rather than conflicting with the jazz rhythm. The three performers brought the ritualized formality of taiko into the musical setting of the big band, showcasing their theatricality.
The Suite – A Tribute to the Shinto Gods
Comprising ten pieces, the suite was named after a selection of the many Shinto gods. Taiko drums have traditionally been associated with war and thunder, and the pieces dedicated to the God of War and the God of Thunder & Lightning fully utilized the power of the Japanese drums. Audience members felt the force of the sound, with some even shielding their ears to protect their hearing. Amidst the intensity, there were also moments of subtlety, revealing a gentler side to both the taiko and the orchestra.
A Perfect Harmony
The collaboration between the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers proved to be a resounding success, offering a fresh and captivating performance that left a lasting impression on the audience. Combining the energy of taiko with the elegance of jazz, the musicians crafted a truly unforgettable experience.