National Youth Jazz Orchestra (Sextet) – 12th April 2019

DSC07258v2Photo by Marian Pearson – more images below

Review by Clive Davies

This is the way it ends; not with a bang, not with a whimper – but with a swing.

Outriders from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) came to the Outwood Academy, Foxhills, for the last concert of the 69th season of the Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire Concert Society. These young Ambassadors arrived brimming with conspicuous musicianship and virtuosity, and presented a programme of Jazz standards that cannily intertwined novelty and nostalgia.

The sextet’s Legends of Jazz programme was an excursion through a valley of giants. From the very first notes of the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn classic, Take the A-Train, one sensed that listeners’ memories were being stirred and old passions rekindled. The group played with practised precision, cohesion and verve. Mark Armstrong on dazzling trumpet and as music director marshalled the proceedings, providing “inter-round” summaries that were both entertaining and erudite. (Who would have guessed that this Jazz session had space for a brief discussion of the Dorian and Lydian Modes?)

The programme pivoted about many familiar names – Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Frank Foster et al – and provided ample opportunity for the soloists to display their virtuosity and inventiveness. The audience was prompt to signal its approval, applauding a succession of solos and, say, the interplay between Ed Parr on slide trombone and Sean Payne on his silver saxophone. Luke Tomlinson’s expansive drum solos elicited hums of approval and Sam Ingvorsen on bass provided a tireless and unswerving rhythm section.

A piece of fine tuning to the programme brought Thelonious Monk to the fore with a compelling arrangement of Think of One by pianist Charlie Bates, a first class display of Jazz keyboard (so few fingers, so many notes!) The concert encompassed various moods as well as modes and concluded with a lively “theme and variations” based on the Gershwin standard I Got Rhythm. This number illustrated Mark Armstrong’s assertion: ‘give a jazzman a chord sequence and you get a casket of tunes in return.’

Hauled back by sustained applause for an encore, these youthful players made a pertinent farewell with Bye Bye Birdie. Jazz emissaries have been infrequent visitors to the concert society but this session refreshed the palate and quickened the appetite. By the end of the set, fingers were clicking, toes were tapping and, in a decorous and seemly fashion, thejoint was jumping.

Audience Comments during the interval:
– Fabulous evening – drumming now my favourie spectator sport!
– The flow of the music was nice and the music was enjoyable. It was a great experience!
– Fantastic! What an occasion for us from Lincoln. In hindsight – please come to Lincoln.
– We thoroughly enjoyed the evening. It’s a genre we are not really familiar with  but this will make us look and listen more. Well worth the trip from Doncaster!
– Fabulous. Having been brought up on Count Basey & Duke Ellington, so great to hear it live – what solos!
– Excellent, particularly the drummer.
– Not really ‘captured’ by this group. Tunes just lost in the jazz rendering. Sad no clarinet  in the mix. Sorry not to be happier , but worth the try as a rarity.
– Excellent programme. Superb drummer. A good introduction to these greats of jazz.
– Really enjoying the jazz. Concert is excellent.
– Made very welcome and enjoyable evening. The band were technically very good. The ensemble playing was great. Solo improvisations too many notes; I prefer improvisation closer to the chord sequences/ melody – otherwise excellent.
– Absolutely superb – a job to sit still!!
– It has been an amazing experience, full of music that I have not listened to a lot. Thanks!
– Brilliant jazz – clever talented musicians. Enjoying it very much & I’m a dyed-in-the-wool classicist!
– Great to have different music – the jazz is fantastic.
– WOW! Brilliant! Thank you.
– I think it was a really good musical experience.
-Superb arrangements; superb playing and impro. Follow that!!