Seonaid Aitken Ensemble releases ‘optimistic’ jazz album Chasing Sakura

The Seonaid Aitken Ensemble will release the hopeful new album Chasing Sakura, influenced by jazz, classical and folk music, on April 29. The record was written in response to a serious accident that violinist, vocalist and composer Seonaid Aitken (second from right) faced during the pandemic.

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The presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Jazz Nights, Seonaid Aitken, is to perform her latest album Chasing Sakura in the Ardgour Memorial Hall and Skye Gathering Hall this year.

Chasing Sakura is the ‘hopeful’ new album from the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble, influenced by jazz, classical and folk music, and due for release on April 29.

The album, which features an all-female ensemble, was written in response to a serious accident that the violinist, vocalist and composer Seonaid Aitken faced during the pandemic, and is her first record of entirely original material.

While healing from a riding accident, Seonaid was inspired by the cherry blossoms around Glasgow during regular walks, which gave her a source of peace and joy during an isolated time.

The record also makes a connection with the symbolism of Japan’s cherry blossom season, which Seonaid admired when she lived there for 18 months.

Fife-born Seonaid is a versatile, multi-instrumentalist and orchestrator based in Glasgow, specialising in Gypsy Jazz.

The busy session musician has appeared, performed or recorded with musicians like Deacon Blue, Carol Kidd MBE, Eddi Reader and iconic American composer Burt Bacharach.

Chasing Sakura features members of the Seonaid Aitken Ensemble – Seonaid Aitken on violin and vocals, Katrina Lee on violin, Patsy Reid on viola and Alice Allen on cello.

Seonaid’s fellow improvising members Emma Smith on bass and Helena Kay on tenor saxophone and flute also bring their musicianship to the album.

Seonaid said: ‘In the spring of 2021, I was recovering from a serious horse-riding accident where I broke my pelvis, ankle, small vertebrae and ribs.

‘I would go for walks around Glasgow chasing cherry blossoms and it reminded me of my time in Japan and how I was inspired by the way they celebrate the beauty and symbolism of the sakura season with Hanami – the traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of the flowers.

‘The record draws inspiration from the lifespan of the cherry blossom to symbolise overall themes of hope, optimism and impermanence.

‘The record is crossover music which doesn’t adhere to one particular genre – rather takes influences from many. I wanted to document the work which I wrote with the skillsets of this incredible team of musicians in mind.’

Tracks such as Hanami, a positive, folk-infused melody, and Chasing Sakura, a driving and triumphant composition, draw inspiration from the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers.

Other standout tracks include the delicate Spring Song, featuring Seonaid’s enchanting vocals and The Walk, an upbeat, jazzy track with the energy and sound of a 1920s speakeasy.