This wasn’t the best of times to pull audiences, but there were HOUSE FULL notices outside Ronnie Scott’s for the first three nights of January when the National Youth Jazz Orchestra paid its established annual visit to the club.
Any fears possibly harboured by long term fans that the band would enter a more cerebral phase following Bill Ashton’s retirement can safely be put to rest; under the direction of top trumpet player Mark Armstrong the band’s main objectives still seem to be to excite and to swing.
This doesn’t just mean playing high, fast and loud either. There were newly commissioned charts from Julian Joseph, a reflective Embraceable You crafted by Kenny Wheeler and a stunning piece called The Change, written by the band’s baritone player Chris Whiter, all performed with sensitivity and an awareness of dynamics: this band can whisper as well as shout.
More obviously thrilling excitement came from the outstandingly powerful and inventive trombone player Callum Au’s arrangement of September In The Rain, which allowed the brilliant young rhythm section to lay down the most satisfying mid-tempo ‘down’ groove I have heard in years.
So many outstanding individuals, particularly tenorist Nadim Teimoori, a marvellous rewrite of All The Things You Are from Andy Panayi, superb vocals by Emma Smith and Kwabena Adjepong as well as a lovely warm welcome to the stand for old boss Bill Ashton, his charming Paris Is For Lovers dedicated to his wife Kay.
A wonderful start to the year.
Review : Brian Blain – Jazz UK