The Nottingham Jazz Orchestra: Sixteen Men Swinging! (2000)
A pleasant, unassuming album of (mostly) familiar songs by a generally admirable rehearsal band from Nottingham, England, which is best known as the neighborhood in which Robin Hood made his name. The NJO, formed in 1969, recorded one previous album, in 1971, before disbanding for some twenty years. It was re–formed in 1995 with pianist Tommy Saville as leader and three members of the original ensemble — trumpeter Pete Wilde, trombonist Mick Chilton and saxophonist John Marshall — comprising the nucleus. The “swinging” these sixteen men (and one woman) do is moderate at best, a trait most clearly epitomized by a lack of “bite” in ensemble passages and a rhythm section that is more earnest than emphatic. The NJO seems most at home on “Basie’s Boogie,” Gerry Smith’s “Parkinson’s Law” and Johnny Griffin’s “Griff’s Groove,” gives Bob Florence’s bustling “Carmelo’s by the Freeway” a decorous reading but dawdles a mite too long on Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home,” Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and elsewhere. After reading the album’s title and hearing the band play, one is less surprised by the absence of Ernie Wilkins’ explosive composition of that name. There are five vocals by Carol Collins, and even though she’s not bad — decent voice, slightly nasal delivery, no tendency to show off — that’s about three too many for any big–band album. She’s at her best on “I Didn’t Know About You” and “Just When We’re Falling in Love” (a.k.a. “Robbins’ Nest”). Saville is nicely showcased on “Basie’s Boogie,” trumpeter Paul Bennett on Sammy Nestico’s tasteful arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge.” They acquit themselves well, as do the rest of the band’s amiable soloists, especially altos Ken Hart and Ian McLean, tenors John Marshall (flute on “Abbie’s Blues”) and Harold Kyte, trumpeter Nathan Bray and trombonist Richard Walker. While no one is likely to confuse the NJO with Basie, Herman or such seasoned contemporary ensembles as Florence’s Limited Edition, it’s a fairly well–equipped regional orchestra that is doing the best it can to help keep big–band Jazz alive and well in its little corner of the world. A round of applause for that, please.
Track Listing: Perdido; I Didn
Personnel: May 2000
Record Label: Sine Records
Style: Big Band