REPORT: Tenth Anniversary Concert of the Royal Academy of Music Junior Jazz Dept at Kings Place

Jam Band 2 at the Jazz in Safe Hands evening
led by Gareth Lockrane (second from left)

Jazz in Safe Hands - Tenth Anniversary Concert of the Royal Academy of Music Junior Jazz Dept
(Kings Place Hall Two, 4th October 2014. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

These anniversaries absolutely do need celebrating. As Nick Smart wrote in an eloquent - and flawlessly copy-edited (thank you) - preview of this event, which he wrote for us a couple of weeks ago, it is now a decade since the first group of teenage jazz musicians entered the Royal Academy of Music's junior jazz department. For the first six years the department was run by Nick Smart, and for the past four by Gareth Lockrane. Piano specialist Simon Colam was also frequently mentioned last night as an important constituent of the core team.

This celebratory evening gave a sense both of the Junior Jazz Departments's legacy and of its  continuity. The number of former students who came back to participate was  impressive. The whole vibe was not about either competition or display, it was about listening, collaborating, supporting, and teamwork. Both Lockrane and Smart set this tone, not least by repeatedly giving the unselfish gesture to cue in the applause for each young soloist.

The most frequent impression I had was of quite  how alert and focused every single player on stage was. There was also a strong awareness of all the responsibilities of performing in public: to the music, to each other, and to the audience. The balance, control and the tuning in the quiet ensemble endings of Kenny Wheeler's Piece No. 9 and Dave Douglas' Blue Heaven were flawless. Anyone whose lazy, convenient stereotype for the jazz musician might be of  a self-absorbed or locked-in character would have had that view challenged, or, better still, knocked flat last night.

These students are fortunate: the composers whose works were performed were all musicians end educators who have had a direct contact with the department. Of these the primus inter pares is the much missed yet ever-present Kenny Wheeler, who accepted the role of patron of the department from the start, a role in which he was more than just a figurehead. He would come in at least once a year. Many others - Dave Holland, Dave Douglas, Jason Rebello, for example, have also been in to work with the young students.

The evening presented several arrangements by tutors at the department, but just one original by a former student, Skepsis by Jacob Collier. It is one of those delightful tunes like Sammy Fain's Alice in Wonderland which is as much and as happily in 2-time as it is in 3-time.

The recent BBC Young Jazz Musician competition showed quite how high the standard now is at the point of entering graduate courses. The pre-college scene is indeed flourishing. The final band of the evening, the class of 2013/4 were in no sense outplayed by their more experienced predecessors, and that fact, a pointer to the level of musicianship and talent currently coming up through the system, is indeed something worth celebrating.


1) The original band, class of 2003/04 -

Tommy Andrews - alto sax
Tom Stone - tenor sax
Tom Walsh - trumpet
Kit downes - piano
Toby Seed - guitar
Flo Moore - bass
Will Glaser – drums

Pass It On - Dave Holland
Piece No 9 - Kenny Wheeler
Solar - Miles Davis (arr Stan Sulzmann)

2) "Jam band 1"

Jim Gold - alto sax
Nubya Garcia - tenor sax
Josh Jaswon - alto sax
Rosie Turton - trombone
Daniel Smith - guitar
Will Barry - piano
James Opstad - bass
Lizzy Exell – drums

A Warm Rocky Place - Stan Sulzmann
Running in the Family - Steve Swallow

3) "Jam band 2"

Tom Barford - tenor sax
George Winstone - alto/sop saxes
Sam Eagles - alto/sop saxes
Harrison Cole - tpt
Jacob Collier - piano
Ralph Wyld - vibes
Flo Moore - bass
Ben Brown - drums

Next Time Around - Jason Rebello (arr Gareth Lockrane)
Blue Heaven - Dave Douglas
Skepsis - Jacob Collier

4) The most recent band, class of 2013/14 -

Jake Labazzi - tpt
Tom Gardner - tpt
Tom Smith - sax
Gustavo Clayton Marucci - clt/bass clt
Oliver Mason - guitar
Harry Baker - piano
Marcus Pritchard - bass
Luke Tomlinson – drums

Smart Money - Jim Mullen (arr Gareth Lockrane)
Prime Directive - Dave Holland
Clockmaker - Mike Walker (arr Gareth Lockrane)



  1. This was/is great, but come on more girls/ladies please! Its 2014!

  2. I'm getting fed up reading comments like this. Girls have every opportunity to play Jazz. There are so many places/groups/ensembles girls can play in, often for free.
    I am assuming by the lack of women in Jazz shows that they are not interested in playing Jazz. Your comment seems to insinuate that there is some kind of agenda to keep girls out of Jazz. Nothing could be further from the truth. Get over yourself.