10 Live Jazz Performances Guaranteed to Improve Your Lockdown

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With Lockdown II being enforced all over the UK, we wanted to try and lift your spirits with 10 of our favourite live jazz performances right now!

Well, here we are again! If there is one thing the last national lockdown has taught us it’s the importance of making the most of our time inside, and here at NYJO we’re here to help in our own small way.

While our talented group of musicians are unable to perform live for you just yet, this week we have collated 10 of our favourite Jazz-inspired performances just for you… for Lockdown II.

1. Duke Ellington & Juan Miró, Côte d’Azur (1966)

Duke Ellington playing for artist Juan Miró, after the two met at a museum near Côte d’Azur. A beautiful artistic exchange takes place between both trailblazers, with Miró gifting Ellington some of his easily recognisable surrealist sculptures and receiving in return a deeply moving serenade from one of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time.

2. Thelonious Monk Quartet, Norway and Denmark (1966)

One of the most revered jazz pianists of all time, Monk is renowned for his improvisation skills. Never a dull moment with him on the piano, and this collection of live performances, recorded in Scandinavia in the late 60s, are no exception. The Thelonious Monk Quartet includes: Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on Bass and Ben Riley on Drums – what a treat!

3. The Modern Jazz Quartet, Netherlands (1982)

Recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival at the Hague, this live performance by The Modern Jazz Quartet is full of the contagious joy typical of their music. Formed in 1952 out of the rhythm section of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, with Percy Heath on bass, John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone and Connie Cay on drums – the MJQ was known for their “cool jazz” signature way of merging bebop and blues.

4. Fela Kuti, Glastonbury (1984)

Influential way beyond his musical career, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, composer, activist, and Pan-Africanist, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti would inspire whole generations through his music and revered wisdom. His iconic performance at Glastonbury in 1984 – a year marked by labour unions’ struggle in the UK – was seen by many of the young audience members as the soundtrack to their teens.

5. Miles Davis’ Last Performance, Vienna (1991)

As part of his last tour – and shortly before his death in September 1991 – Miles spent some time in Europe, to the surprise of delighted audiences who believed they would never get the opportunity to see him play again. After a controversial career and countless brilliantly defying collaborations crossing genre and taste lines, Davis’ last tour was full of meaning and the weight only giants can carry. Here is Miles, in all his splendour!

6. John McLaughlin, Paris (2000)

Here is Acid Jazz and guitarist extraordinaire John McLaughlin in a mesmerising live recording for his 2000 album ‘The Heart of Things’. McLaughlin’s gift for the guitar has been known since his days playing with Miles Davis in the 60s. A pioneer of jazz fusion, there is something for every taste somewhere in his musical career – a masterful chameleon and outright genius musician!

7. Amy Winehouse, Porchester Hall (2007)

We could not complete this list without including NYJO alumna and London’s own singer-songwriter icon, Amy Winehouse. This intimate performance in London in 2000 is a pleasure to watch from start to finish. Aged sixteen, Amy was referred to NYJO by Sylvia Young (Head of the eponymous Theatre School) and attended a number of Saturday morning rehearsals at The Cockpit, under the tutelage of vocal coach Annabel Williams. She then went on to marvel the globe with her deeply expressive singular voice before her tragic passing at just 27, in 2011.

8. NYJO, Royal Albert Hall (2012)

It’s the world famous, National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s live performance at the BBC Proms 2012, led by our very own Mark Armstrong (not to blow our own trumpet, but…). We just had to!

9. Joe Armon Jones & Maxwell Owin, London (2017)

The best of contemporary British Jazz in a live set for Boiler Room in South London. Joe Armon Jones on Keys, Jake Long on Drums, Luke Wynter on Bass, Ben Hayes on Synths and Effects, Nubya Garcia on Sax, Maxwell Owin on Decks and Effects. This is a really exciting showcase of how new ways of interpreting and re-imagining jazz continues to flourish in the UK.

10. Snarky Puppy, Tiny Desk @ NPR (2019)

It’s three-time Grammy Award Winning jazz and funk collective Snarky Puppy playing for NPR Music’s consistently amazing Tiny Desk Concert. While not even the group’s founder Michael League would be comfortable describing Snarky Puppy as a jazz band, the truth is, you can’t say they are *not* a jazz band. Michael sat down with our young musicians for an online Q&A a few weeks back and he was an absolute gent (thanks again!). Brace yourself for an easy to listen, hard to define, but impossible not to bop your head along to set.


We know – we left your favourite off. Thing is, you can make things right by sending us a message to let us know what you think has to make our next round of favourite live performances!

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