The Band: Bill Ashton directing Tom Taylor (piano): Conor Chaplin (bass guitar); Rob Luft (guitar); Dave Elliott (drums); Laurence Hill (percussion); Tom Walsh, Laura Jurd, Rob Greenwood, Jack Davis, Mark Perry (trumpets); Mat Walton, Ross Anderson, Raphael Clarkson (tenor trombones), Barry Clements (bass trombone), Anna Drysdale (French horn); saxophones: Lucas Dodd & Mike Wilkins (altos), Richard Shepherd & Ben Mallinder (tenors), Charlotte Beattie (baritone); Helen Wilson (flute). Lauren Derwent (left) was the guest vocalist and also played percussion.
The Music: Are We Keeping You Up, Sir? (Dick Walter) : Tangerine (Victor Schertzinger & Johnny Mercer, arr. Steve Titchener) : Abbey Gale (Evan Jolly) : Bristol Cream : Let’s Settle Down (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Evan Jolly) : When Love Is Lost (v) (Chris Denmead, Evan Jolly, Bill Ashton) : Remembrance (for Chris) (Paul Hart) : When You’re Ready (Evan Jolly) : Almost There (Anthony Adams) : Riffin’ The Griffin (Josh Daniels) : Adeus Tristeza (Goodbye Sadness) (Fernando Tordo) : Keep It Simple (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Steve Perry) : You’d Think I’d Learn (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Josh Daniels) : Going Dutch (Chris Smith)
The Gig: This concert took place only a few days after the funeral of NYJO’s longest-serving drummer, Chris Dagley, so it was always going to be an occasion for reflection. But it was also an occasion for several new band members to take their Manor bows and for us to welcome Tom Taylor, Laurence Hill, Raphael Clarkson, Mike Wilkins and Charlotte Beattie to the fold…
The concert started with Dick Walter’s Are We Keeping You Up, Sir? It’s a super score that never stops swinging! After the introduction, which set the very relaxed tempo, solos came from Mat Walton, Mark Perry and Ben Mallinder. Along the way there was a beautiful ‘a capella’ chorus for the saxophone section and some drum breaks from Dave Elliott (right), both with and without brushes. Steve Titchener’s joyful arrangement of the ‘standard’ Tangerine is a lovely swinging affair and we heard solos from Laura Jurd and Lucas Dodd, with Dave again contributing some tasteful drum fills.
An ensemble start to Evan Jolly’s Latin-tinged Abbey Gale, with trumpets well to the fore, led into an extended flute solo for Helen Wilson. Tom Walsh followed with a fine flugel solo before lots of duetting between Dave’s drums and Lauren Derwent’s and Laurence’s percussion brought proceedings to a close. Helen’s flute was featured again on Bristol Cream, a new number which the whole of the band were sight-reading; solos were provided by Jack Davis and Richard Shepherd, the latter making his third appearance here in as many sessions, each time with a different band!
Guest vocalist Lauren started her brace of first set numbers with Bill Ashton’s Let’s Settle Down, singing the verse at a very slow tempo with just Rob Luft’s guitar accompaniment. The tempo increased for the chorus and it was a joyful romp from then on, with another LD, Lucas taking the solo honours. Lauren stayed on the front mic to sing Christine Denmead’s soulful When Love Is Lost, to which Tom Walsh added a delightful flugelhorn introduction.
Paul Hart’s evocative Remembrance hasn’t been played that often at The Manor: this performance, dedicated to the memory of Chris Dagley, was a natural choice to close the first set. Helen started it on flute; a solo piano interlude from Tom Taylor followed before Helen played the remainder, with the rest of the band in an accompanying role. Poignantly, Chris’s parents David and Molly arrived in time to hear NYJO’s heartfelt tribute to their son.
The second set started with the irrepressible Evan Jolly’s When You’re Ready, a lovely swinging tune which started with the muted trumpets stating the theme – the solos were handled by Richard and Mark. Almost There was a masterful guitar ballad feature for Rob, whilst one of NYJO’s classic scores – Josh Daniels’ Riffin’ The Griffin (the Griffin being the emblem of the Vauxhall Car Company and Fullers Brewery, both of whom once sponsored the band) – a great piece of swinging jazz, was a vehicle for solos from Richard and Jack. Fernando Tordo’s Adeus Tristeza (Goodbye Sadness), a legacy of NYJO’s tour of Portugal many moons ago, was today dedicated to David and Molly Dagley – Chris had played on the original recording.
Lauren returned to the vocal mic to give us her second brace of songs – and she sang them both delightfully! Keep It Simple, notable for the inspired, and typically ‘Ashtonian’, rhyming of ‘heavenly choirs’ with ‘Jeremiahs’’, featured a solo from Mark; You’d Think I’d Learn had Lauren singing the verse to just Tom Taylor’s piano accompaniment – then the tempo changed up a gear or so for the chorus and we heard the other LD, Lucas (right), soloing on alto.
The final number of the afternoon, ex-NYJO trumpet player Chris Smith’s Going Dutch, was written for a tour of the Netherlands sometime in the 1980’s.It’s a tune featuring, and equally shared between (see what he did there?), the two tenors and, despite Bill counting the tune in at Warp speed, Richard and Ben successfully mastered their briefs, alternately duetting and trading fours for the duration; Dave managed to sneak in a drum solo towards the end.
This concert was an opportunity both to reflect on and consider NYJO’s enduring legacy and to celebrate the band’s essential, and continuing, contribution to the current vibrancy and wellbeing of UK jazz.
Review: Steve Harris/Ian Fielding : Photos: Bill Ashton/Alan Tagg