JJ 11/71: National Youth Jazz Orchestra

Fifty years ago Derrick Stewart-Baxter reviewed NYJO's debut album. First published in Jazz Journal November 1971


Any critic worthy of the name would I think bend over backwards to encourage such a worthy project as this Youth Orchestra – for in such organisations lies the future of jazz. Derek Jewell in his liner notes covers the history of this group, so there is no need to use precious space with the details.

I am delighted to say that this is a very good record indeed, quite regardless of origin or the fact that so many of these musicians are in their teens. With such composer-players as Johnny Dankworth, Harry South, Ken Gibson etc, the group start off extremely well – all they have to do is learn their instruments and then to play the scores! They have succeeded brilliantly – and believe me, some of the material is all hell to play. A few ‘old boys’ such as Geoff Castle, Bob Sydor and Stan Sulzmann have been brought along to add their experience – but this cannot be called cheating – they were once full members. Castle is quite outstanding and so are all the reed men.

The scores are all extremely fine in their own field – and this ranges far and wide, from rock-jazz to a lovely Basie-Hefti-like composition by Ken Gibson, With You In Mind. Clearway by John Dankworth (based on an eight-note bass figure) is another favourite. So too, is the Graham Collier composition Gay Talk. Sydor and Wakeman excel themselves.

One small point on which I cannot agree with Mr. Jewell – I am not at all in love with the recording. Everything is clear enough – and the band is balanced all right – but, the whole thing lacks sparkle and this makes the brass less sharp (and I don’t mean musically sharp!) than I would have liked it. Still, this is perhaps a personal preference. The main thing is that this fine group of youngsters (a hope in the barren years to come) have been recorded – and now it is up to the jazz-loving public to support them.

Six To One Bar; Down In The Hollow; With You In Mind; Eleven Years After; Clearway (27 min) – Nookering The Umtagartie; Negev; Now I Hear You!; Gay Talk; And Upon This Rock; Paying My Tax (26 min)
Personnel drawn from – David White (alt/sop/clt); Stan Sulzmann (alt/sop); Ted Rockley (alt/clt); Bob Sydor, Chris Biscoe, Stephen Shaw (alt); Pete Hadden, Brian Ling, Alan Wakeman (ten); Martin Frith, Michael Page, Michael White (bari); Anna Zee (flt/pic); Heather Brundish (flt): David Rose, Keith Maynard, David Savage, John Cox, John Barclay, Colin Bastin (tpt); Richard Pierce, Martin Bunce, Ian Pitch (tpt/flg); Peter Duncan (flg); Clive Baker (tpt/D tpt/picc tpt); Paul Nieman, Paul Reynolds, Adrian Sheen, Noel Fraser, Steve Saunders, John Sibley (tbn); Richard Garrard (tu); Michael Dore (Fr-horn); Paul Westwood (bs-gtr/bs); Sam Frendrich (bs); Geoff Castle (pno/org); Nick Ingman (el-pno); Les Cirkel (dm); Tim Barry, Martin David (perc); Gary Cattel (perc/vbs); Glyn Thomas (perc): John Maskell (gtr/bjo); Ray Gallo (gtr).
(Philips 6408 067 £2.15)