NYJO2 at Essentially Ellington UK, The Barbican – 14th July 2012

Essentially Ellington UK at the Barbican had been programmed by New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, together with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, as an invaluable experience for young musicians to improve their sight reading skills, bring out the character and “feel” of a piece, learn that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in music and appreciate that a worthwhile performance hinges on the cohesion of the group.

The concert provided a platform for eleven youth bands from across the UK to play their choice of two charts from the following seven arrangements in the JLCO library:

  • Sepia Panorama
  • Ooh Bop Sh’Bam
  • A Night in Tunisia
  • Cottontail
  • Riding on a Blue Note
  • Things to Come
  • Sunset and the Mockingbird

Each band was also given the opportunity to select a further chart from their own library.

The concert commenced with a superlative performance by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis. It was a master class in accurate playing and use of dynamics, particularly its rendition of Mood Indigo, which displayed “gentleness” in the small group section and precision in the band’s musical interpretation. Wynton completed the set by inviting questions from the audience and providing informative answers.

The concert moved on to performances by the eleven youth bands, all of whom gave a good account of themselves – the Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra, Tommy Smith’s Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Aylesbury Music Centre Big Band particularly deserve special mention.

NYJO2 were the last band to perform and Paul Eshelby chose A Night in Tunisia, Ooh Bop Sh’Bam and Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments to showcase the band’s talents, each of which was played extremely well – more than matching the standards laid down by the other participants. Solos were provided by Tom Gardner, Tom Eckl, Charlie Heywood-Smith, Josh Tagg, Daniel Higham and Devan Shah.

After the closing jam session, a Recognition Ceremony uniquely awarded Tom Gardner and Daniel Higham special commendations and certificates for their soloing.

Report : Brian Hoare