REVIEW: NYJO (UK) and BuJazzo (Germany) Freedom and Friendship- A century of jazz (2014 EFG LJF)

NYJO and BuJazzO in Hamburg
Photo credit: Musikrat//Klaus Loenze

NYJO (UK) and BuJazzo (Germany) - Freedom and Friendship- A century of jazz 
Purcell Room. 19th November 2014. EFG LJF. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This was a special occasion. The two leading national youth jazz orchestras of Europe, NYJO from the UK and BuJazzO from Germany had gathered for the final concert of a series under a banner quoting a phrase from the great idealist and Hellenist J.J Winckelmann, Freedom and Friendship - A century of jazz, The Purcell Room audience gained the benefit of this programme being thoroughly prepared: it had been played on four previous occasions in both Germany and the UK, so this was a celebratory performance in every way.

The strong symbolism of this common endeavour - happening in the year that both countries comb through their separate legacies of 1914 -  was acknowledged rather cleverly by also marking the centenary of W C Handy's St Louis Blues, in a rollicking double-band arrangement by Mark Armstrong as the opener.

The re were moments which really brought home the co-operative spirit. NYJO's strong guitarist Rob Luft, in former NYJO trumpeter Nick Dewhurst's funkily exuberant piece Rush Hour was giving his solo the full treatment (specialists tell me the technical expression is "balls-out") and the BuJazzO trombone section were all smiling, giving him the rolling hand cue that they wanted him to continue with his mayhem. Similarly, I watched NYJO tenor saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan, no mean soloist in his own right, coolly transfixed by a solo from his opposite number from BuJazzO Florian Boos.

The most frequently asked question around this concert is what the differences between the two formations are.  The initial impression left from seeing the two formations briefly side by side was that BuJAzzO director Jiggs Whigham has a special way of making the German players take their time, to settle in, perhaps even to value themselves and their sound a bit more than the British players, whereas what NYJO has is slightly more in-the-moment excitement and flair. Maybein the end the differences are less important than the similarities. Both bands allow their players to get to astonishing levels of proficiency and common energy in highly complex music (I only witnessed the first half).

Above all,it happened. The good thing about his endeavour is that, thanks to assembling a raft of sponsors, notably BP, both bands were able to prepare, to spend time together, to combine not for just a one-off concert, but  also to get on the road, with the result that horizons for two lucky groups of fine players from two countries have been mutially broadened.

LINK: BuJazzO at 25- a background piece from 2012 on its history and organisation

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