Jazz @ The Manor – December 27th 2009

The Band: Bill Ashton directing Sandy Suchodolski (bass guitar); Scott Chapman (drums); James Larter (percussion); Chris Eldred (keyboard); Jon Russell (guitar); Mark Perry, Reuben Fowler, Tom Walsh, Rob Greenwood, Henry Armburg-Jennings (trumpets); Ross Brennan (bass trombone), Alex Paxton, Robbie Harvey, Charlie Valentine, Ross Anderson (tenor trombones); Anna Drysdale (French horn); saxophones: Lucas Dodd & Ed Barker (altos), Tom Stone & Richard Shepherd (tenors), Ben Mallinder (baritone); Helen Wilson (flute); Emma Smith, Kwabena Adjepong and Jessica Dowdeswell did the singing.

The Music: U-Turn (Steve Titchener) : Putney Vale (Tom Stone, arr. Callum Au) : Salute To The Sun (Mark Armstrong) : A Step To Far (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Callum Au) : My Romance (Rodgers & Hart, arr. Callum Au) : The Singular Mr Dodd (Callum Au) : In-Swinger (Humphrey Lyttelton, arr. Callum Au) : Whatever Happens (v) (Tim Hopkins, arr. Evan Jolly) : It’s So Easy (v) (Mike Sammes & Bill Owen) : Tiny Tim (Paul Hart) : Body And Soul (Johnny Green) : Barker Is Willing (Callum Au) : Too Close For Comfort (v) (Bock, Holofcener & Weiss) : One More Time (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Evan Jolly) : Groove Rider (Gareth Lockrane) : Summer Sundays (Chris Denmead & Steve Gray, arr. Tommy Laurence) : Looking Back (v) (Derek Goom & Chris Denmead) : Winter Wonderland (v) (Bernard & Smith) [Vocal numbers (v)]

The Gig: NYJO’s regular Feast of St John concert took place a little bit later than planned because traffic problems on the M25 had delayed the lead trombone, the lead alto and the baritone. But they were all in place by the second number.

Chris_EldredThe concert started with Steve Titchener’s U-Turn, a lively opus that was just the right tonic for a cold and snowy day. Chris Eldred (left) started it off with just the drums ‘n’ bass; the saxophones joined in, the brass followed and Richard Shepherd and Mark Perry played the solos. Everybody had a part to play in the opening of Putney Vale, which set the tone for Tom Stone’s long and absorbing solo, played initially with just the rhythm section. Eventually Tom had the backing of the full band and we were also treated to a solo from Jon Russell on guitar.

Salute To The Sun was composed and arranged for the band when it was supported by the oil company BP, which has a rising sun in its logo: the composer and arranger was Mark Armstrong. It started with a noisy, medium tempo funky rhythm. Ed Barker and Robbie Harvey played the solos and Jon could be seen playing rhythm guitar with his thumb while chewing on his plectrum. The arrangement included a very attractive section for the unaccompanied brass.

The first vocal of the afternoon was Bill Ashton’s A Step Too Far, arranged by Callum Au. Emma Smith sang it delightfully, helped out by a solo from Ed’s alto. She followed it with Callum’s arrangement of Rodgers and Hart’s My Romance. This time Chris started it with a piano introduction, aided by Henry Armburg-Jennings on flugelhorn. Emma sang the first chorus with just Jon’s guitar. Then we heard the full band with Henry A-J remaining on flugelhorn. The Singular Mr Dodd is a showcase for Lucas Dodd (right) – not ‘Dodds’ as most people are inclined to think, apparently. It started with a fearsome drum break from Scott Chapman, which set the vigorous tempo and along the way there was some of Callum’s clever and attractive scoring for the brass before Lucas took over for this attractive alto feature.

richardIn-Swinger is the only composition of the late Humphrey Lyttleton in the band’s library. It was arranged by the seemingly ubiquitous Callum Au. There was an introduction from the rhythm section with some noisy interjections from the band before the full ensemble took over with Henry A-J soloing on muted trumpet, reproducing Humph’s regular solo. Richard played a solo and Ed could be heard playing the clarinet in the ensemble.

This concert, incidentally, was being used as preparation for NYJO’s regular January residency at Ronnie Scott’s club. On the Wednesday of the engagement the House of Commons Jazz Group will be in attendance, so included in the programme was Tim Hopkins’ tune Whatever Happens, arranged by Evan Jolly – Tim is the brother of MP Kelvin Hopkins, who is on the NYJO Board. Kwabena Adjepong sang the song and Ed played the only solo. Kwabena was featured on the next one as well – Mike Sammes’ and Bill Owens’ It’s So Easy: Mark played the solo on this.

The second half started with Tiny Tim, part of Paul Hart’s new suite entitled A Christmas Carol, which is based on Charles Dickens’ novel. It’s a joyous romp from start to finish, which was set on its’ way with a solo from Reuben Fowler. James Larter and Mark could be heard to good effect before a change of tempo allowed Ed to play a sombre clarinet solo. Then it was back up to speed with Tom Stone on tenor and a coda on soprano saxophone from Ed.

richard_leftThen Richard (left) stepped up to the solo mic to give us a ravishing rendition of Body And Soul. This is one of four arrangements of this song that the band has in its library, which owes its origins to a ‘Jazz Cruise’ in the Caribbean which the band did four years ago. The theme of the cruise concerts was the music of Coleman Hawkins and this is the one tune above all others that will be forever associated with ‘Bean’. From start to finish it was all Richard, who emulated the Hawkins style and tone to perfection!

The next one was a new one: Barker Is Willing by Callum Au is a tribute to Ed’s helpfulness in all sorts of situations. Played at a slower tempo than the previous composition, Ed was heard above the noisy opening from the band. Chris then soloed briefly and Jon soloed over the ensemble before Ed took over completely. Towards the end he was accompanied by the band clapping their hands.

Then it was back to the vocalists, with Kwabena singing Tommy Laurence’s arrangement of Too Close For Comfort – super singing served with some sumptuous accompaniment from Richard’s tenor. Kwabena followed it with Bill’s jonBasie-inspired One More Time, arranged by Evan Jolly. With super flautist Helen Wilson in the band it was no surprise to find Gareth Lockrane’s Groove Rider in the programme. As well as Helen’s flute playing we heard from Robbie Harvey (right), with a real virtuoso solo, and Richard – we also heard briefly from Jon.

The concert finished with three vocals: Summer Sundays from Emma, with some fine rhythm guitar from Jon, Looking Back from Emma and Winter Wonderland from Emma, Kwabena and Jessica Dowdeswell. A fine trio of songs beautifully sung by an equally fine trio of singers and a very apt last number, considering the weather!

Review: Ted Gascoigne  Photos: Alan Tagg