Each year, high school and college jazz ensembles from overseas perform during the IAJE conference, and this year's 32nd annual event in Long Beach, California, was no exception. Often, these groups bring CDs, sometimes professionally produced, others no more than demos that give some indication of their overall level of proficiency, as is the case with these albums by the East Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra from the UK and Wesley College from Melbourne, Australia, which can be seen as well as heard on a DVD taped in part during its "May Music Magic" festival.
East Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra
The EMYJO, directed by Jonathan Eno, sounds much like a fairly decent US high-school ensemble, playing respectably as a unit but not always hanging together and boasting no standout soloists (I presume that's a guest artist, the director's younger brother, David Eno, featured on alto sax, as he was at the conference, on the ballad "Therefore"). The album's generally murky sound may have something to do with the unremarkable performance, as the ensemble sounded appreciably better in Long Beach's concert environment.
Wesley College 2004
May Music Magic
Sound is also a problem on the Wesley College DVD, as is the video, which looks like it was shot at Thelonious Monk's favored hour, namely 'round midnight. There is, however, a "bonus"two tracks ("Struttin' with Some Barbecue," "A Night in Tunisia") with guest artist James Morrison who is hands-down the greatest jazz musician ever to come out of Australia. Again, the sound does no one any favors, especially on "Tunisia," which showcases trumpeters Morrison, Paul Panichi and Ross Irwin with rhythm section. It begins somewhere after the opening theme and ends in the middle of Morrison's dazzling cadenza. Oh, well... There are three more selections by Generations in Jazz ("Barbecue" and "Swingin' for the Fences" again, Quincy Jones' "Witchin' Hour"), which we are told is also the Wesley College band. The sound is slightly better, while the performance is comparable to the others, somewhere around late US high school or early university level.
Even though neither of these discs provides explicit evidence of their prowess, it was good to have both of these bands performing in Long Beach, and I hope to have the pleasure of seeing and hearing them again in person.
Tracks and Personnel:
Tracks: Who Guards the Guardians?; Amber Spirit; Stellar by Nightlight; Mambo Deppa; Therefore; Let's Swing by Chad's Pad (32:58).
May Music Magic
Tracks: Struttin' with Some Barbecue; Swingin' for the Fences; Blue Skies; Gee Officer Krupke; Faure's Requiem.
Personnel: Peter Foley, music director; Katie Crone, Will Morrissey, Jessie Osowicki, Byron Scaf, Jess Stewart, reeds; Sam Farthing, Victor Finkel, Ed Fisher, Madi Foley, Penny Rogers, trumpet; Sam Fairbank, Tahli Foley, Ed Kuss, Raffi Luber, trombone; Sophia Exiner, piano; Simon Thompson, guitar; Emily Siddons, vibes; Al McLean, bass; James Thompson, drums.