Here's something wonderful and totally unexpected, an out-of-left-field, feel-good sonic surprise...
The Heritage Orchestra is a 45-piece symphony orchestra with an average age of 25, featuring jazz soloists and rhythm section, mixing classical orchestration with Hollywood and TV soundscape stylings and a splash of nu-soul. It's an exuberant and invigorating romp.
The band was put together eighteen months ago for a series of club nights at London's Cargo, and it was such a sensation that it looks like it's sticking around for a while yet. It's the brainchild of Chris Wheeler (producer and orchestra manager) and Jules Buckley (composer, orchestrator and conductor), who met while studying at the Guildhall School of Music. The prime mover was Wheeler, who quit the college early, bored and disaffected, after being accused by panel of professors of ignoring his "heritage." He determined to put an orchestra together that would represent his own postmodern heritage, and that of the participating musicians.
Wheeler and Buckley's heritage seems to consist of equal parts jazz and jazz/rock, Twentieth Century European symphonic music, and a full-on daytime TV diet of Dempsey & Makepeace and Starsky & Hutch reruns.
The result is a blast of good fun. As the strings swell, the horns get staccato and the drum beats grow more urgent, you can visualise two inner city 'tecs, ducking and weaving towards the perps, calling out "Cover me!" as they go. There are mellower times too, once the case is closed.
If it sounds slight, it isn't. It's musicianly and it's got depth. Prokofiev and Stravinsky make themselves heard. And the soloists are strongChris Bowden (alto saxophone), Trevor Mires (trombone), Matt Calvert (guitar) and Ross Stanley (Fender Rhodes), in particular, are memorable.
The Heritage Orchestra is on a mission to "revitalise the old, represent the new, and capture the future." And these players are having some serious fun while they go about it.
Mothers And Daughters Now Mothers; d'Lin; Sky Breaks; Ballad For Strings; Tell Me Stories; The 1890 Affair, Parts 1-111.
Kate Marsden (leader), Katharine Scheld, Kit Massey, Marianne Haynes, Catriona Parker, Martin Lissola: first violins; Penny Ainscrow, Ben Lee, Patrick Roberts, Claire Tyrell, Rosie Tompsett, Nat Jones: second violins; Felix Tanner, Emilie Hornlund, John Crockatt, Sarah Chapman: violas; Ben Trigg, Nastasya Hodges, Jon Cottle, Volker Hormann: cellos; Adam Betts: drum kit; Ben Bryant, John Blease: percussion; Ian Tripp: vibraphone; John Calvert: electric bass; Matt Calvert: guitar; Ross Stanley: piano, Fender Rhodes, celeste; Tom Farmer: double bass; Paul Greenwood: flute, alto flute; Beth Akers: oboe; Johnny Spall: alto saxophone, clarinet; Sum Bullard: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone; Tom Challenger: tenor and soprano saxophones; Chris Bowden: alto saxophone (1,4); Gavin Broom, Joe Morris: trumpets; John Stokes, Trevor Mires (3), Tim Smart: trombones; Chris Lund: French horn; Gavin Smart: tuba; Liz Swain (3), Natalie Williams (5): lead vocals; Reilly: vocals; Jules Buckley: conductor.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.