Newton Mearns musician helps Scottish National Jazz Orchestra celebrate 25 years

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra celebrates its 25th anniversary with a return to live performance at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Friday.

Jazz musician Anoushka Nanguy

The award-winning trombonists Anoushka Nanguy from Newton Mearns will be among those playing in a programme drawn from almost 100 years of jazz history, as well as the classical and Scottish music traditions.

Anoushka (22) won the Rising Star title at the Scottish Jazz Awards 2020, having been a product of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s acclaimed jazz course.

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She has come a long way since a primary school teacher produced a plastic pipe, mouthpiece and funnel in the ten-year-old’s class and asked if anyone could get a sound out of it.

“I was the only one able to,” Anoushka recalls. “There was a choice between the trumpet, trombone or euphonium and I decided the trombone was loudest and, as I was quite a loud child at the time, I decided it would suit my personality.”

She ended up playing with the East Renfrewshire School Jazz Band before moving on to the Strathclyde Jazz Orchestra and the NYOS (National Youth Orchestras of Scotland) Jazz Orchestra.

Anoushka said: “Going to their workshops and residential courses gave me the opportunity to play with musicians, some of whom were from the RCS. I saw a standard that I wanted to reach for and it gave me insight into how much work you need to do if you really want to become the best you can possibly be.”

Her musical influences range expansively, embracing classic jazz divas such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Betty Carter, trombonists such as the English player Elliot Mason and “soulful, bluesy guys like Wycliffe Gordon and Andre Hayward,” as well as notable women players such as Shannon Barnett of the WDR Big Band in Cologne (whom Nanguy consulted for her research paper on female trombonists) and the pioneering Melba Liston.

Anoushka, who has been able to resume live appearances with her Noushy Quartet this month, added: “I’m also a massive hip-hop fan and I’d say Noname [the female Chicago rapper and poet] is one of my biggest inspirations as a rapper, lyricist and poet. Also Jill Scott and Erykah Badou. They really resonate with me, such powerful voices as women.”

The months of lockdown gave, she says, “time to think, deeper insight, that things aren’t as plain and simple as they once might have seemed. There are a lot of things happening in the world that are very uncertain.

"At the end of the day though, it’s all about having belief in yourself and being able to manifest the things you want to do – positivity in spite of circumstances.”

The LIVE at 25 concert programme includes music by leading jazz composers Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams and Neal Hefti and classical composer Leonard Bernstein.

It also encompasses pieces by groups including Weather Report, Steps Ahead and Yellowjackets. Scottish elements, including an arrangement of Robert Burns’ My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose and an extract from Culloden Moor Suite, which the orchestra recorded with its composer, the late Glasgow-born saxophonist Bobby Wellins, also feature.