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Doncaster Jazz Alumni: 50 Years


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Doncaster Jazz Alumni: 50 Years
The problem for John Ellis UK as a teacher of brass instruments in the West Riding of Yorkshire, was that there were few resources or equipment available for him to teach his students the skills they needed and take them to the level that would enable them to have a career in music. He wanted to put a music training programme in place to provide an appreciation of big bands and opportunities for performance. The local education authority gave him £12 to buy an arrangement and the Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra was created. Skip forward 50 years and look back at what was achieved by his alumni; they were the first British band to perform at the Montreux and Nice jazz festivals, they entertained the Queen on two occasions, performed at the United Nations and performed and worked with some major artists including Herbie Hancock, Stan Tracey, Ronnie Scott, Quincy Jones and Gil Evans. John Ellis UK has since been awarded an MBE for services to music education.

This recording, 50 Years by Doncaster Jazz Alumni, is a one-off musical reunion to celebrate their work and a thank- you to Ellis for providing the possibility for many young musicians to find their voice. Opportunities for jazz education at that time in a Yorkshire mining town were few and far between, making this achievement doubly impressive. The album has 12 tracks across two discs (both CD and vinyl) with the aim being to donate a substantial portion of the proceeds from the sales of this album to help assist current young students.

Bass and piano lead in to the opening track, Bob Brookmeyer's "Hello & Goodbye." Originally written for a jazz orchestra, the band are obviously having fun, moving through the sections with aplomb, with Rory Ingram's trombone playing the part originally intended for baritone saxophone and to answer the key question—yes, it swings. The band commissioned composer and arranger, Tom Kubis to write a new piece for the album. Using Ellis' catchphrase as a title, "You Know It Makes Sense," it has agreeable solos from Pete Beachill on valve trombone, Tom Ashe on trumpet and an ear-catching piano trio section. Perhaps the stand-out on the first disc is "Mandeville," a composition by the late Patrick Wilson. This cultured and understated arrangement features inventive rhythmic underpinnings together with Lee Hallam's trombone and French horns to the fore.

Alan Ganley's "Victor" opens the second disc and is an ideal vehicle for multiple soloists to show their skills. John Coltrane's "Naima" is given a pleasingly calm reading and features Ellis' son Mark, on soprano saxophone. The band gives a nuanced performance in navigating the complexities of Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People" before the horns shine in an innovative arrangement of "My Favourite Things." Elsewhere the band get funky with Laurence Cottle's "Bitter Suite." Andy Vinter's piano is stylish on "Body & Soul" and naturally the saxophones star in the swinging "Sax No End."

A jazz orchestra needs to swing, this they achieve as the reeds, brass and rhythm section combine to offer a blend of power and panache. Three music directors are used and the variety and entertainment levels are kept high. That initial outlay of £12 was a shrewd investment. This is a treat for big-band enthusiasts and a fitting tribute to Ellis, the musicians involved along the way and those who worked behind the scenes during the last 50 years.

Track Listing

Hello & Goodbye; You Know It Makes Sense; Mandeville; Over The Top; Bitter Suite; Body & Soul; Victor; Naima; Elegant People; My Favourite Things; Show Me The Way To Go Home; Sax No End.


Reuben Fowler
composer / conductor
Nadim Teimoori
saxophone, tenor
Paul Baxter
bass, acoustic
Mark White
Harry Maund
Additional Instrumentation

Colin Latimer: French horn; Karen Latimer: French horn; Robin Tait: French horn; Manolo Polidario: guitar; Martin Longhawn: piano; Andy Vinter: piano; Sean Hodgson: bass; Jonathan White: electric bass; Steve Hanley: drums; Joe Sykes: drums; Rob Clark: percussion; Al Wood: music director; Kate Ashwood: flute; Mark Ellis: reeds; Rob McGrath: reeds; Cat Miles: reeds; Dean Nixon: reeds; Sarah Potts: reeds; Mark Sabin: reeds; Myvanwy Smith: reeds; Tom Ashe: trumpet; Damian Bell: trumpet; Martin Bradley: trumpet; James Hamilton: trumpet; Mike King: trumpet; Gareth Smith: trumpet; Tom Tait: trumpet; Stuart Wilson: trumpet; Jacob Cooper: trombone; Chris Groves: trombone; Lee Hallam: trombone; Rory Ingham: trombone; Dan Jones: trombone; Richard Potts: trombone; Jonathan Reed: trombone; Ellie Smith: trombone; Richard Wigley: trombone.

Album information

Title: 50 Years | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Ubuntu Music


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