James Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Yorkshire Suite


I thoroughly enjoyed the previous release from trumpeter and composer Hamilton’s Jazz Orchestra, The Lost Tapes (New Jazz Records) – a compilation of live recordings made over a period of years. This new release was also recorded live, this time at the 7Arts venue in Leeds in 2015, It’s the fourth release from the orchestra, and the disruption to normal musical life caused by the pandemic provided Hamilton with enough spare time to mix it. 

As I indicated in my review of The Lost Tapes, the band once again proves that there is plenty of serious jazz talent beyond the bounds of London. Again, it’s a short disc of just over 25 minutes, but is available at a low price as a CD and as a download from james-hamilton.co.uk.

Hamilton is indeed an impressive composer, the winner of a Jazz Yorkshire Award for composition, a British Composers Award and the Sir John Dankworth Award for composition, and he has been nominated for an Ivor Novello and an Eddie Harvey Award.

The new release is a commission for the Yorkshire Festival, celebrating the work of Jazz Yorkshire, and is cleverly constructed to become progressively more complicated with each emerging movement, to give youth jazz bands a chance to challenge themselves as their skills develop.

Thus the music is largely straightforward in concept, but constantly interesting. It opens with The Dales, the pulsing rhythm section chords being joined by the brass and developing into a theme, the style of which reminded me of the early big band creations of Michael Gibbs and Mike Westbrook, a most agreeable period.

Thrifty is a joyful theme, with lively solos from altoist Matt Anderson and trumpeter Kim Macari, concluding with a free improvised section, wild at first and then leading gently into the brief and ethereal Transition. The brass strongly opens Tell It As It Is, which features solos from saxophonist Mark Ellis, trumpeter Simon Dennis and trombonist Matt Ball – climaxing with all three blowing wildly together against a compelling riff from the brass sections.

The disc’s concluding track, Home Is All A Place Can Hope To Be, has the feel of an encore after the four-part suite, with warm textures from the trombones over more pulsing piano chords. There’s a slightly scrappy moment from the trumpets when the main theme begins, but this is a live recording, and the few technical flaws are momentary. Overall, it’s immensely enjoyable music.

The Dales; Thrifty; Transition; Tell It As It Is; Home Is All A Place Can Hope To Be (25.27)
Gareth Smith, Simon Dennis, Kim Macari, Simon Beddoe (tp); Matt Ball, Stuart Garside, Tom I’anson, Chris Dale (tb); Mark Ellis, Cat Miles, Matt Anderson, Will Howard, Rob Mitchell (s); Harry Orme (g); Aron Kyne (p), John Marley (b), Steve Hanley (d). Recorded live at 7Arts, Leeds, 31/5/2015. Mixed and mastered by James Hamilton.
New Jazz Records