Sunday, 14 August 2022

Orchestra to mark 100 years of jazz

THE National Jazz Youth Orchestra will make its annual visit to the Kenton Theatre in Henley next Friday (November 3) for a concert marking the centenary of jazz.

The programme will journey through the 100 years and the many and varied forms of the genre that began life as Jass.

Artistic director Mark Armstrong, who joined the orchestra in 2010, says: “It will be quite a range. I have done some arrangements of Louis Armstrong for the whole band and we will have music from the Swing period, Bebop and Dizzy Gillespie, Juke Ellington, Count Basie and Miles Davis.

“We have some really exciting talented players, people like trumpet player Alexandra Ridout, who was the winner of the BBC’s young jazz musician of the year last year, and her brother Tom, a tenor saxophone player, was a runner-up.”

Founded in 1965 by Bill Ascot, the orchestra has provided a stream of talent including the likes of singers Joe Jackson, Sam Brown and the late Amy Winehouse.

The singer fronting the 23-piece band at the Kenton is likely to be Ellie Bagnall, who Mark believes can follow in the footsteps of her high-achieving predecessors. “It is as much a finding school for vocalists as instrumentalists,” Mark says.

Unsurprisingly Mark, who is jazz professor at the Royal College of Music, delights in seeing his three children enjoy music.

“My wife is a musician as well and our life is spiritually rewarding if not financially. The children all enjoy music. Henry who is 10 plays the horn and the double bass and has a little choral scholarship and sings in a small choir.

“Rosie, who is 12, sings and plays the oboe and the piano while Lucy, who is six, plays anything she can get her hands on. She has tried the trumpet and trombone and stands at the piano. They are surrounded by it so they can’t get away from it.

“But I think it is very important they do it on their own terms and genuinely because they enjoy it and want to do it. Some children are hot-housed and they lose the joy of it. Slow progress is better than being forced.”

Mark says there is no sign of interest in jazz waning. “I think if anything people are starting to realise that the internal skills you need for jazz are increasingly becoming relevant for all musicians,” he said.

“Like being able to be flexible, learning to improvise, responding orally rather than visually, play by ear, it is changing the culture of their music education as a whole. What we have are the core skills for music.”

Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £24 for adults and £22 for children and seniors and Keepers and Friends of the New Street venue. Prices include £1 restoration levy. To book, call the box office on box office on (01491) 575698 or visit www.kenton

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