NYJO @ The Manor – 18th November 2012

In The Band: Bill Ashton directing Chris Neill (piano): Ashley Kerr (bass); Rob Luft (guitar); Ollie Bewley (percussion); Max Mills (drums); Alistair Martin, Laurie Carpenter, Jack Dring, Matt Hampton, Sean Gibbs (trumpets); Barry Clements (bass trombone), Maddie Dowdeswell, Ross Anderson, Chris Valentine, Daniel Higham, James Harold (tenor trombones); saxophones: Michael Lack & Chris Whiter (tenors), Phil Meadows & Ian Bufton (altos), Charlotte Beattie (baritone); Rosie Stano (flute). Billie Wackrill & Layla Ley did the singing.

Set 1: A Foggy Day (George Gershwin, arr. Steve Titchener) [theme: sax section; solos: Sean, Michael] : Almost There (Anthony Adams) [feature for Rob] : He’s Just My Bill (Jerome Kern, arr. Mark Nightingale) [feature for tmb section; soli: sax section; solo: Ross; coda: Chris N] : Let’s Settle Down (v) (Bill Ashton, arr. Evan Jolly) [Billie (voc) with Rob a capella; solos: Sean, Phil; coda: Chris N] : Looking Back (v) (Christine Denmead/Derek Goome, arr. Mark Nightingale) [Billie (voc); soli: sax section] : Isn’t It Spring Again? (v) (Tim Colwell, arr. Paul Higgs) [Billie (voc); solo: Chris W] : A Nightingale Swang… (Eric Maschwitz/Manning Sherwin/Jack Strachey, arr. Mark Armstrong) [solos: Ross, Phil] : You’d Think I’d Learn (v) (Bill Ashton & Christine Denmead, arr. Josh Daniels) [intro: Layla (voc) with Chris N; solo: Phil]

Set 2: Going Dutch (Chris Smith) [feature for Michael & Chris W; intro: Max] : Come Sunday (Duke Ellington, arr. Ian Bufton) [feature for Ian (clt)] : La Muchacha Do Colombia (Martin Williams) [intro: Barry; solos: Chris W, Sean, Rob; coda: Max + Ollie duel] : Penny (Evan Jolly) [intro: sax section a capella; solos: Michael, Rosie] : Another Always (v)  (Tony Charlesworth/Bill Ashton, arr. Chris Smith) [Layla (voc); no solos] : Just A Breath Away (v) (Jacqui Hicks) [intro: Chris N then Layla (voc) a capella; solo: Phil; coda: Chris N, Layla & Phil]

Jottings: Such is the depth of talent available to NYJO that, even with a considerable number of personnel changes from its last appearance here – including a virtually all-new trumpet section from Birmingham, Ashley the bass player and (the increasingly regular Manor visitor) Chris N on piano – the band’s signature sound remains.

The concert proved once again that NYJO’s extensive back catalogue, much of it written by alumni of the band, contains a wealth of good music – Chris Smith’s Going Dutch, which provided Michael and Chris W (on tenor this time) with a good workout, and Steve Titchener’s arrangement of the opener – A Foggy Day – being cases in point.

Amongst the other alumni whose work was featured were: Mark Armstrong (now NYJO’s Music Director), who contributed …Nightingale…, which put Ross and Phil under the solo spotlight; Evan Jolly, who penned the arrangement for Billie’s first vocal Let’s Settle… and composed the delightfully swinging Penny, a solo showcase for Rosie dedicated to the Ashtons’ new whippet; and Jacqui Hicks, whose Just A Breath Away was introduced as a prime example of big band writing in the “porn rock” idiom.

Players of note were: Rob, back in the guitar chair for this one, making significant contributions to Let’s Settle… and (eventually!) La Muchacha… as well as impressing with his feature, Almost There; Ian, who we haven’t seen at The Manor for some time, giving a composed clarinet reading of Ellington’s Come Sunday; newcomer Sean, who took most of the jazz trumpet solos; and Chris N, whose idiosyncratic keyboard skills we enjoy more each time he plays here.

Review : Steve Harris & Ian Fielding