Rising Scots Jazz Musicians In Burn’s Night Collaboration
January 2023 sees the release of a unique musical collaboration for Burn’s Night between two of Scotland’s brightest emerging musicians; jazz vocalist Luca Manning and pianist/arranger Ryan MacKenzie, a special new version of Robert Burn’s classic love song ‘Ae Fond Kiss’. The contemporary arrangement by MacKenzie was inspired by the fellow Scots musicians shared love of Burn’s work and a desire to bring his most poignant song to new audiences.
Blending Burn’s folk tradition with an aching contemporary arrangement for piano, strings, bass and drums, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ features Manning on vocals alongside Mackenzie on piano and top session players from the worlds of jazz and pop. Both musicians, originally from Scotland, met at London’s Guildhall School of Music, where the collaboration took shape and Mackenzie is a graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. While both musicians are based in London, they remain passionate supporters of Scotland’s vibrant folk and jazz music scenes.
It was in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1791 where Robert Burns first established a relationship with Agnes Maclehose, composing ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ as a final letter to her after their farewell meeting before she departed for Jamaica. The letter is held by National Library of Scotland. ”It is Burns’ most recorded love song for good reason” says MacKenzie. “The appeal for me is the poetry in the lyrics coupled with the timeless simplicity of the melody. I imagine that’s what draws people in – as an arranger it gives you so much to work with”. “The natural affinity for Burns has always been there” adds Manning. “We’re both very aware there are many amazing versions – but everyone who heard the track was so supportive it encouraged us to release the recording as a single”.
Accompanying the release are new arrangements of other Burns songs by MacKenzie for piano including Brose and Butter and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose. “We both hope our project will encourage more people to learn about Burns through new contemporary arrangements” says the musician. His songs have always been in my life. I grew up in the North East of Scotland, and played folk music from a young age. These were some of the first songs I accompanied at gigs and sessions back home, and we hope to ensure they remain part of every folk singer’s repertoire.
I first became aware of Luca Manning’s vocal talents on Alex Webb led album British Standard Time, released on Lateralize Records in 2021, and he made quite an impact on me. The vocal presentation, phrasing, and emotional pull on ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ does nothing to lessen that impact. Credit is also due to Ryan MacKenzie who has written the most beautiful arrangement of this wonderful love poem.
‘Ae Fond Kiss” is available now to download in hi res audio on Bandcamp together with accompanying sheet music and to stream on all major streaming platforms.
Musicians: Luca Manning – vocals; Ryan MacKenzie – piano; Millie Ashton, Athena Hawksley-Walker – violin; Sally Belcher – viola; Maddy Hamilton – cello; Mark Fincham – bass; Tom Potter – drums.