Seonaid Aitken with the Clockwork Strings at The Assembly Hall on The Mound provided an almost mirror contrast to the Seonaid Aitken I know and love watching when performing wonderful gypsy jazz music with her band Rose Room. This was Seonaid Aitken taking “Love” as a musical theme and performing some of the great standards from the Great American Songbook with more than a few surprises put into the package. Seonaid has a pure, warm and timeless tone to her vocals, and few singers out there can do these standards like Seonaid can; listening to her is like stepping back in time to when these songs were first written and performed. Perfect vocals and perfect phrasing brought the songs of legendary writers like Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Hoagy Carmichael into life for all too short a period. There is a reason why Seonaid Aitken has won best vocalist this year (and last year) at The Scottish Jazz Awards, and this performance left no one in the room in any doubt what that reason is. Seonaid is simply a classic voice in any genre of music.
To many Jazz fans, Seonaid is probably best known for her band Rose Room (also winners of this year’s best band award at The Scottish Jazz Awards) and the wonderful gypsy jazz sounds of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. Often overlooked though is the fact that Seonaid Aitken is also a classically trained musician, and with an orchestra behind her tonight, these were simply outstanding performances by Seonaid and every member of “The Clockwork Strings”. This orchestra (The Scottish Session Orchestra) is hand picked and made up from some of the very best musicians on their respective instruments from other companies, and Seonaid was obviously having so much fun performing and playing with everyone on stage tonight. Also, all the music for the orchestra, which was conducted by Adam Robinson, was arranged by Seonaid.
It’s hard to pick any favourites from this performance as there were so many. When you have Seonaid Aitken on vocals and playing violin backed with an orchestra on classics like “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You”, “What is This Thing Called Love”, “The Nearness of You”, “Misty” and so many others, all you can really do is just sit back, listen and enjoy.
Some real surprises in the set list too, including Robert Burns’ “Ae Fond Kiss”, Nina Simone’s “Love Me or Leave Me” and a magical performance of Christine McVie’s classic “Songbird”. Many people will probably now associate this last song more with Eva Cassidy but, for me, this version was even better and I hope Seonaid finds time to get into a recording studio with her version.
Also in this set and definitely not to be missed in this review, the wonderful “J'attendrai" ("I will wait") made famous by Italian singer Rina Ketty. Classic vocals from Seonaid with the orchestra doing a great job on the “Humming Chorus” from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly which the song is constructed upon.
Joe Williamson, who has recently just won the award for Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year also put in some fine guitar work in this show.
This musical project from Seonaid Aitken has been a project that has taken well spent time to come to its full development on the Assembly Hall stage with the arrangements of so many songs for an orchestra obviously being a time intensive project. There is a very serious side to this project though that goes far beyond this evening’s performance. Seonaid has been working closely with Adam Robinson (and others) to develop a world class musical resource of talented individuals who are available for a wide range of commercial musical projects. If you need session work in your recording studio for your album, or a host of projects, then this is a resource available right here in Scotland.
For more details on this very important aspect to the work of “Clockwork Strings” visit
This show was my last one to review at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and they obviously saved the best for last.
Review by Tom King