Youth jazz orchestra returns with look at Then and Now
HOW time flies! It is already nearly a year since the National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s 50th
HOW time flies! It is already nearly a year since the National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s 50th birthday was celebrated in style with a special concert at the Kenton Theatre, writes Basil Evans.
Well, the good news is that the orchestra is returning for a seventh appearance at the New Street venue on Friday, November 11, at 7.30pm.
This time NYJO is contrasting the past with the developing future with a show called Then and Now, presenting a balanced selection of favourite jazz standards — some with vocals — and a mix of NYJO arrangements of funk, jazz-rock, salsa and bossa nova pieces, including some of NYJO’s own compositions.
Last year’s concert featured some pieces in these modern styles which were played with great skill and proved extremely popular.
It is an area which Mark Armstrong, the orchestra’s artistic and music director, has developed since he joined NYJO four years ago. Mark is a renowned trumpet player who is Jazz Professor at the Royal College of Music and himself a former NYJO alumnus.
Many of Henley’s big band jazz lovers who have seen the earlier performances will know something about the orchestra’s origins and history and it’s a remarkable journey.
It is the longest-running organisation for young people from 12 up to 25 playing big-band jazz. It was formed 51 years ago to fill a gap in jazz education.
The charity’s mission is to perform exceptional music to excite audiences and engage with young people of all backgrounds around the country.
Joining is by audition and there are several grades through which the youngsters progress via a formal regional development programme — including opportunities to play at home and abroad.
The pinnacle is of course to play in the the show band. The careers of many of the UK’s renowned jazz musicians — including Guy Barker, Mark Nightingale, George Presencer, Courtney Pine and the late Amy Winehouse — have all been launched through their time spent with NYJO.
The main performing orchestras play about 40 times annually throughout the UK in addition to several international tours.
NYJO enjoys a yearly residency at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, has performed at Buckingham Palace, gave a televised performance at the BBC Proms and has made repeat appearances at the London Jazz Festival.
Along the way it has produced more than 40 albums — including NYJO Fifty, released last year. This year, the BBC’s orchestra for Strictly Come Dancing is composed entirely of NYJO former and current players.
In a feature on “Who to look out for in 2016”, Jazzwise magazine said: “The National Youth Jazz Orchestra is a vibrant, diverse collective of bands that give voice to all that’s different, young and exciting in Brit Jazz.”
In August, Nigel Tully, the executive chair of NYJO, was delighted to announce a major new partnership with the Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation.
The foundation will support NYJO across a number of different areas, including the NYJO Academy Ensemble and the provision of bursaries for academy attendees from disadvantaged backgrounds.
With this grant, said Mr Tully, the foundation has underlined its strong commitment to developing the next generation of UK jazz musicians.
So here is yet another opportunity to hear this marvellous and unique 22-piece jazz orchestra play its own special variety of big band jazz at the Kenton, bringing to Henley another landmark on the jazz scene.
Tickets are priced £24 with concessions £22 (including a £1 restoration levy) and can be booked by calling the box office on (01491) 575698 or visiting the website at www.kentontheatre.co.uk