THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA

Progressive Big Band • United Kingdom
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The NJO was the offspring of a popular weekend jazz club, the "Jazzhouse" which had its home at The Green Man pub on Blackheath Hill, S.E.3, where the "house" band was the Ian Bird Quintet (initially comprising Ian Bird, tenor sax; Clive Burrows, baritone sax; Johnny Mealing, piano; Tony Reeves, bass and Trevor Tomkins, drums - Mealing and Tomkins left to join the newly-formed Rendell-Carr Quintet and were succeeded by Paul Raymond and Jon Hiseman respectively. The ensemble featured many London-based jazz musicians, such as Harry Beckett, Jack Bruce, Ian Carr, Dave Gelly, Michael Gibbs, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jon Hiseman, Henry Lowther, Don Rendell, Frank Ricotti, Paul Rutherford, Barbara Thompson, Trevor Tomkins, Michael Phillipson, Les Carter, Tom Harris, Trevor Watts and Lionel Grigson. Ardley, Gibbs, Carter, Rutherford, Michael Garrick, and composer Mike Taylor all contributed pieces and arrangements. The idea for the NJO was born in the autumn of 1963 out of read more...
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THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA Western Reunion London 1965 album cover 3.00 | 2 ratings
Western Reunion London 1965
Progressive Big Band 1966
THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA Le déjeuner sur l'herbe album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe
Progressive Big Band 1969

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THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA Camden '70 album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Camden '70
Progressive Big Band 2008

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THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA Camden '70

Live album · 2008 · Progressive Big Band
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Sean Trane
While the NJO had a determining impact on the Swinging London’s live jazz scene, they had only left two studio albums, and nothing in terms of live testimony. It was little secret that these live tapes recorded in Camden’s Jazz Festival at the end of spring 70 existed and probably circulated, but they only got a legit release in 08 on the Dusk Fire label, and even then the recording is hardly (no pun intended) perfect. But by the time of this gig, the NJO was in its last days and featured a good deal of the Colosseum prog rock band (only Chris Farlowe is missing), on top of featuring some of London’s brightest jazz stars like Beckett, Lowther, Gibbs, Wadsworth, and Jon Hiseman’s future wife Barbara Thompson. But a big chunk of the historical heart of the band is not there anymore, and even the NJO mastermind (Ardley) prefers concentrating on directing.

Most progheads will recognize not only the Colosseum kingpins, but also hear two tracks that were regular concert features: Tanglewood and Rope Ladder To The Moon, separated by the stunning rendition of RCQ’s number Shade Of Blue, a Gil Evans-inspired Ardley composition. But don’t get your hopes up; the treatment of those two Colo numbers is much jazzier than Colosseum’s musical realm. Gibbs’ Tanglewood piece (of the same album) is relatively unrecognizable in its middle section, unlike in the Gibbs album. To give you an idea of the recording quality, just get a load of Rope Ladder’s totally-muffled vocals Despite its deceptive name, Stratusfunk is more of a standard big band number (Ellington-type, since it was one of Ardley’s main influences) with mega horn sections.

Outside these early in the set hors d’oeuvres, the bulk of the set was the Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe album, as 7 of the 8 tracks are played consecutively. Next up is another RCQ original, the superb Garrick-penned Dusk Fire, but the energetic execution is less enthralling (and messier) than the studio version, but it retains much of its awesomeness with its extended 12-mins. Trane’s Naima and Miles’ Nardis are both given the Ardley slowed-down big band treatment, and the Andres Segovia piece Study has that typical Spanish drama that reminisce Gil Evans. The Gibbs-penned Rebirth features some mean Greenslade Hammond and vibes that can be reminiscent of Colosseum, but the big band horns beg to differ. After the sleepy Ballad, comes the Dejeuner piece, which is a rather short but grandiose big band breakfast piece where Hiseman rums up a storm. The closing track is a messy God Dancing Tango With Some queen and it bears no interest whatsoever.

Well, until the long-awaited Déjeuner album gets a reissue, this Camden 70 Cd is the only way you can hear that impressive Ardley oeuvre. Despite its relatively poor sound, this album presents many spine-chilling moments and is for now, the only easily-found NJO testimony. Recommended if you’re into the Swinging London jazz scene

THE NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA Western Reunion London 1965

Album · 1966 · Progressive Big Band
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Sean Trane
In the mid-60’s London scene, the NJO was one of those unavoidable and XXX big-band groups (originally started as Clive Burrows Orchestra), where almost everyone who was anyone on the scene or almost transited through the group, which was normally the vehicle for composer Neil Ardley. You’ll find in the WR album, among others, stellar names like Ian Carr (of RCQ and Nucleus fame), Barb Thompson, Tony Reeves, John Hiseman (all three of future Colosseum fame), Trevor Watts (future Amalgam) plus a bunch more of lesser-known, but no-less gifted musicians like Paul Rutherford, etc. The line-up would fluctuate to include many other household names.

As I said above, the NJO was normally Ardley’s compositional project; but in the present album, most of the tracks are cover or reprises of other composers, re-arranged by different members of the group. Indeed maybe the band was not ready yet for its ambitions, and they concentrated on getting on the same wavelength. Aside the one original track penned by Ardley), Shades Of Blue (with its Spanish Sketch feel), the album consists of Miles track, like So What, Milestones, some Gerry Mulligan or Leonard Bernstein pieces and a few more, all re-arranged by either Ardley, Carr, Carter and some more. The general live mood (album recorded over one gig in early 65) does not differ much from the original soundscapes of the covers, the whole remaining rather standard-y in the 50’s mode.

A rather unexciting first album that was still seeing the members finding their marks (IMHO), but things would get much more exciting and adventurous with 68’s Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe, which has still to fond its way onto the CD format. In the meantime WR did get its CD release, but outside my fave Shades Of Blue (also present on the RCQ debut album of the same name), there isn’t much to arouse my enthusiasm, so don’t expect me to throw it much flowers.

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