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Written by Michael Tumelty
Published on Sunday 17 May 2015
Read on The Herald website

****

THE loveliest night of the year, perhaps? You know, generally I would avoid like the plague being seen to presume what other people might think or like. Dangerous territory, when all of our responses to music are so individual and so different. But just this once, at the risk of abrading sensitive musical palates, dare I suggest that Jonathan Morton’s creative choice to make the theme of the closing concert for his Scottish Ensemble season An American Songbook, with classics from the great popular repertoire of the last century, from Gershwin to Mancini, was absolutely on the pulse of what his audience wanted on Saturday night. He hit the nail right on the head, and the crowd loved it.

It seemed to me that, as the Old Fruitmarket, dressed in its cabaret/cafe livery and flooded with a darkly-lit ambience, while its floor became steadily-packed with dancing couples, strictly old-style, and the strings of the Scottish Ensemble filled the place with the sound of all this fabulous, ageless music, I have not seen so many smiling faces in a long time, nor felt such warmth emanating from a crowd: powerful, affecting stuff, music. The atmosphere was intoxicating, and electric when a couple of tango dancers took the floor. All the music was lovely; and so was the night.

With just the ensemble strings, James Gorman on kit, Anna-Jane Casey a richly-authentic voice (Blossom Dearie being among her favourites) and, underpinning, and indeed characterising, the whole programme, Jamie Manson’s glorious and consistently stylish arrangements (he played bass throughout) all you could do was smile, laugh, cry; or dance: cheek to cheek.