The 24-piece NYJO Jazz Orchestra was founded by Bill Ashton in 1965. For 55 years, it has been the gateway to the profession for many future stars of the UK jazz scene, and countless musical theatre and session musicians. NYJO’s alumni include Guy Barker, Laura Jurd, Mark Nightingale and Amy Winehouse, plus the leader of the Strictly Come Dancing band Dave Arch (and most of his band members) and music supervisor for the London 2012 Olympics Martin Koch.

The Jazz Orchestra has a traditional but slightly expanded big band orchestration, playing written charts that, while very wide-ranging in style, rely on a balance of notated music and jazz solos.

“NYJO has never been conformist, never hewing to one particular line, never known for fawning replications and very deliberately these days a vehicle for new possibilities.”


Jazz Orchestra
© Photo by Carl Hyde

“The Jazz Orchestra is the ideal vehicle for young players who enjoy being part of a large ensemble, playing in sections with tightness and groove, experiencing the range of colours from a full-on big band shout chorus to gentle and impressionistic textures, and paying solos that weave between the arrangements. You would enjoy mixing a wide variety of styles, playing music from the swing era up to contemporary music and getting to grips with all sorts of grooves, from swing to Latin and funk styles and beyond.

Contrary to popular opinion, instant sight-reading is not the crucial success factor here, it is more about approaching your role in the band with knowledge, confidence and energy and understanding how to interpret, listen and respond in the moment to the other musicians that surround you. Reading is like a muscle – it responds to exercise and use: your reading is guaranteed to improve through playing in the Jazz Orchestra!”

NYJO Music and Artistic Director Mark Armstrong