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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



MIDLAND YOUTH JAZZ
ORCHESTRA

Twist of the Wrist

 

 


1. You Took Advantage of Me
2. Black and Tan Fantasy
3. Don’t Get Around Much Any More
4. Always and Forever
5. My Man Bill
6. Stardust
7. Take the A Train
8. Bye Bye Barnet
9. Latin Schizophrenia
10. Central Park West
11. Twist of the Wrist

 

Those of us who care about these things worry about the future of both big bands and jazz in general. On the one hand, the amount of radio exposure they get is minimal and, on TV, almost none at all. On the other hand, many of the jazz artists themselves are concerned with strange sounds, which most jazz aficionados wish they would not associate with our great music.

What a great relief therefore to listen to this band of young musicians from the Midlands, tackling a difficult book of arrangements from most of the world’s greatest writers. They play them all well and in a very musical way. Musical Director John Ruddick and his wife Nichola put an enormous amount of work into training and managing the band and this CD is a credit to their hard work.

Track 1 is the Rob McConnell chart that many big bands have tried and given up on, but MYJO float through with seemingly consummate ease: an excellent selection as a starter track.

It was great to hear a youth band playing Duke Ellington. This arrangement of Black and Tan Fantasy by Bob Florence is very "Ducal" and catches the spirit of the music very well. Jonathon Radford’s trumpet solo is outstanding. Another Jonathon, Warburton this time, plays the bass bone on the Tom Kubis arrangement of Don’t Get Around Much Any More and he plays it very well. The performance of the band is just as good; the overall sound is top class. I particularly liked the sax soli on this track, which is beautifully played.

Pat Metheny is not one of my favourite composers, but the Bob Curnow arrangement of Always and Forever which features trumpeter Sally Erskine on flugel, is very well played by both soloist and orchestra. It is a ballad arrangement of a piece that lacks the benefit of a good tune!

MYJO has always performed the difficult Rob McConnell charts with style and confidence, and My Man Bill is no exception. They often use this arrangement as a concert starter; I would always want to start with something much easier (and slower), but that is not the John Ruddick way!

The maestro himself is featured on the next track. Stardust is such a wonderful tune and I count myself very lucky to have heard, on many occasions, John’s superb trumpet playing close to. The arranger is Sammy Nestico and as always very musical.

Bob Florence is another of the world’s outstanding arrangers for big band. This version of Take the A Train is like no other I have ever heard. The solos are all good: I particularly liked the muted trumpet. The band again interprets another difficult chart with confidence and a great deal of skill.

A composition by a MYJO old boy Kevin Wedrychowski, who is also a fine trumpet player, follows. It is called Bye Bye Barnet and, as John Ruddick says in his sleeve note, Kevin writes uncluttered charts of real style.

This album certainly contains the work of all the top arrangers. Frank Mantooth wrote Latin Schizophrenia and said it was one of the most difficult pieces he had written, which I am sure is true. That just makes this performance by MYJO all the more remarkable, as they handle it with ease! This track has two fine solos from Percy Persglove on trumpet and Richard Jones on piano.

Central Park West is a John Fedchok chart of a John Coltrane composition and it features tenor player Mark Fletcher, who gives a very strong and interesting solo performance. Twist of the Wrist is a more recent Rob McConnell composition, in the tradition of great big band writing, with many different sounds including some shimmering flutes. It is also a fine solo vehicle for lead alto sax, Andy Isherwood (and a strong tune!).

Which brings me back to my starting point. When I was starting to play, many years ago, there was nothing like MYJO in which you could learn your craft and I am certain I would have been a much better musician if there had been. The future of our great music is in the safe hands of John and Nichola Ruddick and this band of great young musicians.

You can buy a copy of this outstanding CD from MYJO by phoning (0)1675 442050 or email John.Ruddick@btinternet.com. Support this magnificent organisation, they deserve your support.

Don Mather



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