The Band: Bill Ashton directing Sandy Suchodolski (bass guitar); Scott Chapman (drums); Simon Whittaker/Phelan Burgoyne (percussion); Chris Eldred (keyboard); Rob Luft (guitar); Reuben Fowler, Jeremy Law, Tom Walsh, Tom Gardner, Jack Coward (trumpets); Barry Clements (bass trombone), Alex Paxton, Mat Walton, Charlie Valentine, Tom Baxter (tenor trombones); Anna Drysdale (French horn); saxophones: Connie Wookie & Nadim Teemoori (altos), Michael Lack & Luis Mather (tenors), Charlotte Beattie (baritone); Helen Wilson (flute). Kwabena Adjepong (right) did the singing.
The Music: Fifty Thousand Flies Can’t Be Wrong (Steve Titchener) : Miss Pankhurst Protests (Alan Hare) : La Muchacha De Colombia (Martin Williams) : Our Love Is Here To Stay (George Gershwin) : No Moon At All (v) (Evans & Manne, arr. Dave Foster): You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (v) (Cole Porter, arr. Mike Townend) : Rosie (Anthony Adams) : Indiana (James Hanley, arr. John Dankworth) : Ma (He’s Making Eyes At Me) (Sidney Clare/Con Conrad, arr. Gareth Lockrane) : Ballad For Saturday (Evan Jolly) : One For Oscar (Andy Vinter): Abbey Gale (Evan Jolly) : As Close As You Are (Tubby Hayes) : Rose Room (v) (music by Art Hickman, lyrics by Bill Ashton, arr. Evan Jolly) : Too Close For Comfort Now (v) (Jerry Bock/Larry Holofcener/George Weiss, arr. Tommy Laurence)
The Gig: A somewhat different NYJO line-up for this month’s outing at The Manor, with an all new sax section, guitarist and percussionists – although some of the new faces have appeared here before with NYJO2…
This afternoon’s concert was a bit of a trawl through the NYJO back catalogue, starting with a 1992 Steve Titchener composition whose title refers to a typically wry Ronnie Scott comment about the standard of the cuisine at his eponymous club… Fifty Thousand Flies Can’t Be Wrong featured solos by Jack Coward, Luis Mather and Chris Eldred, and had some nice sax section writing into the bargain – there’s nothing like throwing the new chaps in at the deep end!
Alan Hare’s Miss Pankhurst Protests, based on the chords of the Johnny Mandel tune Emily, refers to the suffragette Miss Emmeline Pankhurst, who was often referred to as Emily and didn’t like it much. It was a front mic feature for Alex Paxton (left) and also incorporated some delightful muted section playing from the trumpets and trombones, with some nice guitar support from Rob Luft.
La Muchacha…. is Martin Williams’ unforgettable legacy to NYJO, whose ranks he graced for quite some time. It’s always an audience favourite and the first notes from the bass trombone identify it immediately – thanks this time to Barry Clements! Nadim Teemoori and Reuben Fowler (appearing at The Manor for the second week in a row) duetted and played solos. Then the spotlight was on Rob’s guitar before Scott Chapman and Simon Whittaker proceeded to hit everything in reach of their sticks and mallets prior to the coda.
Subsequently, both the tempo and decibel count were reduced for part-time shepherd Michael Lack’s front mic tenor feature – Our Love Is Here To Stay – played before his extended family flock: a piano/tenor duet intro led into the theme before the backing band joined in and the number culminated in a diminuendo fade – lovely!
Emma Smith being sidelined with laryngitis, Kwabena Adjepong was the sole vocalist this month. He gave us a fine rendition of No Moon At All, which was arranged by Dave Foster in 2002 as one of a number of songs written in 1952 that were added to the band’s library to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Queen’s reign. It started with Kwabena accompanied by just Sandy Suchodolski’s bass guitar before Luis played the solo; the piece finished quietly with just piano and guitar. Kwabena followed up with another standard, Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, in an arrangement by Mike Townend that featured a well-wrought alto solo by Nadim.
For a while now Bill Ashton has been trying to make contact with the composer of the next number and, after much searching, Ian Fielding managed to track him down. Thus it was that Anthony Adams was present in the audience to hear one of his early compositions, dedicated to his then young (but now grown up) daughter Rosie. It was a guitar feature for Rob, backed by some intricate muted trombone writing, and Anthony was suitably moved…
The first set ended with a tribute to the former Vice President of NYJO, Sir John Dankworth, which featured his own arrangement of that old standard – based on the chords of Donna Lee – Indiana. Taken at a superfast clip, this was another alto showcase for Nadim – excellent stuff!
The second set started with ex-NYJO flautist Gareth Lockrane’s fast-paced arrangement of that old warhorse Ma, which was attacked wholeheartedly by the band from bar 1. Not surprisingly there was a lot of flute featured and Helen Wilson (right) played a blinder! Alex also gave us a classy solo and the whole thing was wrapped up with some nice drum interjections from Scott.
This was followed by Evan Jolly’s Ballad For Saturday, so named because Bill had once asked Evan to write something for a NYJO rehearsal along the lines of: “…could you write me a ballad for Saturday”. Whatever the provenance of the title, it was a lovely vehicle for some mellifluous flugel playing from Reuben.
At this point Bill felt Chris (left) needed a feature, so Andy Vinter’s One For Oscar, written as a tribute to the late Oscar Peterson, was excavated from the pad – and it’s the perfect piece to demonstrate Chris’s remarkable keyboard technique. 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. Reuben followed with a fine trumpet solo before lots of duetting drums and percussion brought proceedings to a close.
As Close As You Are is from the pen of the late Tubby Hayes, written for the Centre 42 Big Band some forty years ago. It started with some subtly-written sax section stuff over muted trumpets and trombones before Luis, Jack and Sandy supplied the solos.
Keeping with the old tunes, Kwabena’s penultimate vocal on possibly one of the oldest number in the pad gave us a glimpse of Art Hickman’s Rose Room which, based on the chords of In A Mellotone and with new words by Bill and in a lovely arrangement by Evan Jolly, also featured a tricky sax section soli passage.
Finally, Tommy Laurence’s insistently swinging arrangement of the classic standard Too Close For Comfort, which offered Luis the opportunity for a wonderful tenor solo and gave Kwabena an eagerly-grasped showcase for his maturing vocal talent, provided the rip-roaring climax to a wonderful afternoon of big band magic.
Review: Steve Harris/Ian Fielding : Photos: Alan Tagg/Bill Ashton