2. Round Midnight
3. The Change
4. Dawn Before Dark Before Dawn
5. Return Flight
6. Agro Alegria
8. Summer Sundays
10. Lady Be Good
11. Feeling Good
Helen Wilson - Flute, alto flute
Phil Meadows - Alto sax, soprano sax, flute
Jim Gold - Alto sax, clarinet
Nadim Teimoori, Riley Stone-Lonergan - Tenor Saxes
Chris Whiter - Baritone sax, flute
Louis Dowdeswell, Adam Chatterton, Nick Dewhurst, Tom Dennis, James Copus - Trumpets, flugelhorns
Anna Drysdale - Horn
Ross Anderson, Pete Whitehouse, Tom Green, Chris Valentine - Trombones
Barry Clements - Bass trombone
Emma Smith - Vocals (tracks 8, 11)
Chris Eldred - Piano
Rob Luft - Guitar
Conor Chaplin - Bass (tracks 1, 4, 7, 8, 11)
Joe Downard - Bass (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10)
Scott Chapman - Drums (except tracks 4, 6)
Felix Higginbottom - Percussion
Mark Armstrong - Music Director & trumpet (track 2)
Tim Garland - Soprano sax, tenor sax (tracks 2, 4, 6)
Mark Mondesir - Drums (tracks 4, 6)
The title of this album refers to the change which has happened to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO). Long-time maestro Bill Asgton retired from leading the band. Ashton was a notoriously modeest man of wide musical tastes who never used 20 words where one would do (can you detect any signs of irony here?). Now Mark Armstrong is the band's MD and we are promised "an exciting new dawn for the band with a broadening of repertoire, style and leadership".
However, the repertoire seems much as before: a mixture of jazz standards and some originals supplied by friends of the band. The style also seems largely unchanged, with some heavy arrangements presumably designed to shocase as many of the band's members as possible. The mujsicians are all first-class, able to handle the most complex orchestrations and deliver solos with skill. Sadly the soloists are not listed in the sleeve-notes, so it is not possible to identify which band members are up-and-coming soloists. The only listed soloists are the two guests: saxist Tim Garland and drummer Mark Mondesir, although one wonders why they needed to import a guest drummer when NYJO has an impeccably brilliant drummer of its own: Scott Chapman.
Tim Garland solos on his two compositions: the bitty Dawn Before Dark Before Dawn and Agro Alegria. Like some of the other originals on the album, these seem to consist of fragments rather than satisfying melodies. This is a trend I have observed in many modern groups, where the comp--osers of jazz pieces forget that melody is supposedly one of the vital triumvirate of musical qualities which also includes harmony and rhythm. Even the Gershwin brothers' Oh, Lady Be Good!" (not Lady be Good as the sleeve has it) is barely recognisable, as it starts with solos and only later introduces the tune.
One item which does have a melody is Return Flight, written
by former NYJO member Tom Stone, with a radiant flugelhorn solo from
one member of the five-man trumpet team. But many of the arrangments
are over-busy, creating a thick texture which sometimes overwhelms
soloists. Nikki Iles' Hush makes a change by being predominantly
gentle and pensive. Emma Smith sings agreeably on Summer Sundays
and Feeling Good, which are both melodic.
The Change? Long ago I thought there needed to be changes in NYJO's
style and outlook. Basically, I'm still waiting.