Review: NYJO 45th Birthday


NYJO 45th Birthday
(100 Club, October 10th 2010, review by Frank Griffith, all photos courtesy of Steve Titchener)


The celebration of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra's 45th year featured several ensembles associated with this organisation. The picture above is of NYJO2 directed by Paul Eshelby.

The current NYJO1 (below), ably led by trumpeter/composer/arranger, Mark Armstrong, stunned the nearly packed room with the sheer impressive feats of the challenging repertoire that fit into a ninety minute set.



This included a florid but musical arrangement by Josh Daniels of A Foggy Day featuring guest soloist, Sam Mayne's searing alto sax imbued with a rich, buttery tone and plenty of ideas. An engaging but somewhat complicated sounding piece in 21/8 time had players and audiences grasping for their slide rules in haste while 16 year old whiz guitarist Rob Luft soloed fluidly throughout the piece as if it was a 4/4 blues.

No NYJO celebration would be complete without songs by its Founder Musical Director, Bill Ashton OBE. Male singer, Kwadena Adjepong, got the ball rolling with his treatment of "Paris is for Lovers" where he was joined by Bill onstage.

Other vocal highlights were Emma Smith 's delivery of "Let's Settle Down" with NYJO1, and, later on, veteran NYJO songstress, Lorraine Craig 's rendition of "Where is the Music" with the All-Stars band.

A shorter set featuring a nonet "Tomorrow's Face" allowed the intensity and volume to dim a bit and feature more improvisation from the likes of young up and coming jazzers like trumpeter, Henry Armburg-Jennings and saxophonist, Richard Shepherd, to stretch out freely on classic jazz standards including two memorable Kenny Dorham pieces. Well done, boys and more of this sort of thing in future will enable us to face tomorrow with great hope.

The concert also featured an appearance by the NYJO Originals, below, directed by Ted Rockley.





The final set was a remarkable one with a collection of a Not-So-Youthful NYJO All-Stars featuring the likes of trombonists, Mark Nightingale, and Andy Wood, saxophonists, Andy Panayi, Martin Williams and Nigel Hitchcock as well trumpeters Simon Gardner, and Gavin Mallett.

Bassist Paul Morgan was on hand as was the able drumming of Ian Thomas and Mike Bradley. For this set, Bill Ashton actually conducted the band in his inimitable and ethereal manner with the beat while the band completely slayed the audience to a heroic finish. It was as if the band, like a ship, was able to find its own way back to port, having played this music and upheld the tradition for so many years.

Happily, the spoken tributes and speeches were kept to a minimum and Bill and his wife Kay were treated to a holiday by NYJO board members, presented by Nigel Tully and Paul Eshelby, as a gesture of their appreciation for the remarkable achievement this man has accomplished. NYJO will now be evolving to new pastures while retaining some of the legacy and qualities that got the first 45 years off to a such great beginning. Long may it thrive!

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