After forty-seven years of fronting the National Youth Jazz Orchestra – taking the band all over the world and releasing over forty-five albums and videos – Bill Ashton OBE has passed NYJO’s leadership baton to the band’s current Artistic and Music Director – and NYJO graduate – Mark Armstrong.
Relinquishing the NYJO reins has allowed Bill the time to develop an idea – which he’s been mulling for many years – of putting together an orchestra comprised entirely of ex-NYJO players, many of whom have asked for the opportunity to continue to play the extensive and musically important canon written and arranged for NYJO since its inception.
A pilot concert for Bill Ashton’s Graduates, as the band will be known, took place at Jazz @ The Manor in Ruislip back in July 2011 – however, it was Sarah Webster, former head of Bedale’s Junior School, who provided the impetus for the launch of this band on a more formal basis by offering the orchestra a feature spot at the inaugural Privett International Jazz Festival, which was held at Petersfield in Hampshire on September 8th.
Uniquely, Bill Ashton’s Graduates can draw upon forty-seven years of superbly talented players and over six-hundred compositions and arrangements – largely by past and present NYJO musicians – for its concert appearances, the next one of which will be at Jazz @ The Manor in Ruislip on October 21st.
Future plans for the Graduates include a gig at Ronnie Scott’s – a venue well-known to NYJO players.