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Although the competition is getting ever keener, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra remains No. 1 among Great Britain's big bands, as affirmed in the country's most recent poll and reinforced by their latest recording, another remarkable tour de force whose wonderful compositions and arrangements are given typically excellent readings by an orchestra that shows no weaknesses and takes no prisoners. As has become customary for NYJO in recent years, the recording was made before an audience at Ronnie Scott's Club in London (at 47 Frith Street, hence the album's title). Risky business if an orchestra isn't well-prepared, but NYJO always is - director Bill Ashton sees to that. As usual, there are so many highlights that listing them would easily consume several pages of copy (single-spaced). For example, Steve Parry's galvanic opener, "Sweet London Bridge," based on the well-known nursery rhyme as well as on the changes of "Sweet Georgia Brown"; José Bowen's fiery "El Rey Pedro"; Mark Nightingale's lovely Jazz waltz, "Roxy Beaujolais"; three colorful showcases for NYJO saxophonists, Adrian Bullers' explosive "Not Really" (Jamie Anderson, tenor), Mick Sheppard's ballad, "The Hour Before Dawn" (Sammy Mayne, alto) and Steve Parry's "Late Night Blues" (Paul Jones, alto); Martin Williams' throbbing "Headache" (based on "Indiana" and dedicated to the great tenor man Zoot Sims who once said, "They put a man on the moon and I'm still playing 'Indiana'"); Ashton's galloping "Kosher Horses," sight-read by the band for the first time on a Thursday and recorded (flawlessly) the following evening; and the bustling title selection, written by Dave Foster and arranged by Parry. The session ends on a moving note with the Scottish air, "Will Ye No Come Back Again," dedicated to Ronnie Scott who passed away last year. NYJO's soloists are, as always, topnotch, and some of the newcomers make their presence felt immediately, especially pianist James Watson and drummer Darren Altman, who are filling the massive shoes of Simon Carter and Chris Dagley, respectively. Also heard to good advantage are trumpeters Simon Finch and Bryan Davis, tenor Alyson Adams, baritone Simon Main, trombonist Andy Wood and guitarist Pete Callard. Ashton wrote two songs celebrating the band's home base, "London" (sung by Nick Gallant) and "New in London" (by Sheena Davies). Another triumph for NYJO, not only Britain's foremost Jazz orchestra but one of the best anywhere else as well.
Sweet London Bridge; The Whole Thing; El Rey Pedro; Roxy Beaujolais; Not Really; In the Hour Before Dawn; The Kosher Horses; Late Night Blues; London; New in London; Headache; 47 Frith Street; Will Ye No Come Back Again (77:21).
Bill Ashton, musical director; Paul Jones, Sammy Mayne, Alyson Adams, Jamie Anderson, Stephen Main, saxophones; Gareth Lockrane, flute; Ashley Horton, Andy Wood, Jim Vincent, Andy Baker, Pete North, trombones; Darren Wiles, Paul Newton, Bryan Davis, Simon Finch, Mark Armstrong, trumpets; James Watson, piano; Pete Callard, guitar; Dave Foster, bass; Darren Altman (Steve Perry on "Late Night Blues"), drums; Corrina Silvester, percussion; Sheena Davies ("New in London"), Nick Gallant ("London"), vocals.