NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017

NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017NYJO @ Festival On The Close, Rugby, 27th June 2017

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) presented their mix of swing, funk and jazz standards in our second major event at the Festival On The Close at Rugby School.

One thing that you can guarantee you get from the NYJO is variety. By their very nature they have a fluid line-up, and their repertoire can call on a seemingly endless list of artists and composers for material. Their obvious focus on youth fits seamlessly with the direction that the Festival On The Close seems to be taking.

Not only were the current set of chair holders the focus of tonight’s event they have been involved in a series of workshops with young people from several schools to explore jazz in many forms, both improvised and concentrating on traditional notation. Marshalled by Artistic and Music Director Mark Armstrong the Orchestra was joined by local young people for their own spot in the limelight.

I have been lucky enough to experience NYJO on several occasions and whilst there is a serious element to the Orchestra it’s clear that the fun and enjoyment of playing is the basis of their success. These people represent the best in the UK; as an example saxophonist Tom Barford is the recipient of The Kenny Wheeler Jazz prize at the RCM. But there is a matter-of-fact attitude on show that engages the audience.

The late, great, Mr Wheeler was there in spirit. The anglophile trumpeter was closely associated with the NYJO and that showed tonight. Second up in the set was the Wheeler arrangement of Embraceable You and the most contemporary tune on show, Sam Glazer’s Jabberwocky featured a trumpet solo that could have been improvised by the man himself. Sam and fellow Alto Saxophonist Tom Smith exchanged increasing competitive solos and I have to say that Jabberwocky was my favourite on the night.

Arrangements by former lead trombone chair Callum Au featured strongly with current stalwart Chris Valentine on the spotlight.  Au’s West Side Story suite is another with a contemporary feel and Something’s Coming offered an arrangement that allowed several of the players to show their solo skills.

James Hudson added the vocal talent on the standards I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Her and audience members were  dancing in the aisles on a least a couple of numbers.

But the highlight was the involvement of the up and coming musicians, joining the NYJO for Pee Wee Ellis’s The Chicken.  Now a standard, this tune allowed the newcomers to have their opportunities as soloists and they took the opportunity with some relish, particularly the young man on trombone. Some of my favourite musicians have played or recorded this tune from John Scofield to Maceo Parker. Who knows how many of the talented young people on show tonight will be emulating these guys as their careers develop!

It was great to be present at another successful night at the Festival On The Close. NYJO and the schools really played their part and we are looking forward to our next coverage – Laura Mvula in the performance space on Thursday 29th. Watch this space!

Review: Ian Gelling

Photographs: Stephanie Colledge

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