Thursday, June 14, 2018

Neil Ardley - 1976 - Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows

Neil Ardley 
Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows

01. Prologue
02. Rainbow 1
03. Rainbow 2
04. Rainbow 3
05. Rainbow 4
06. Rainbow 5
07. Rainbow 6
08. Rainbow 7
09. Epilogue

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Barbara Thompson (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to B4)
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Bob Bertles
Bass – Roger Sutton
Cello [Acoustic, Electric] – Paul Buckmaster
Conductor, Synthesizer – Neil Ardley
Drums – Roger Sellers
Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Dave MacRae (tracks: A1 to B1, B4)
Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Geoff Castle
Guitar – Ken Shaw
Percussion, Vibraphone – Trevor Tomkins
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet – Tony Coe
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute – Brian Smith
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr

Recorded at Morgan Studios, London, 1976.
Special Thanks to Colin Richardson & Ian Carr.
Kaleidoscope of Rainbows commissioned by the Camden Festival with the aids of funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

This work, recorded in 1976, completed a trilogy begun with The Greek Variations and continued with A Symphony of Amaranths. All of these works are based on a sequence of notes that provide the foundation for composition and improvisation; Kaleidoscope of Rainbows uses the five-note scale of Balinese gamelan music and has been seen as an early example of world music. It is a fully-fledged piece of jazz composition and the work is, in The Essential Jazz Records, judged as one of the 500 best albums in the entire history of jazz and one of very few British works to be included. It is notable for its "elliptical, emotional tunes" [The Guardian] and a ravishing saxophone solo by Barbara Thompson. 

Rainbows was the third album in a trilogy recorded by composer/bandleader Neil Ardley which started with '69's Greek Variations, reissued last year on Impressed, and continuing with '71's A Symphony Of Amaranths, rumoured to be up for reissue later this spring. In each of these albums, within different contexts, Ardley was concerned with, as he put it, "integrating the warmth and individual feeling of improvised music with the formal beauty of composition to the benefit of both." The context for Greek Variations was a series of variations on a Greek folk song, while for Amaranths it was settings of poems by Yeats, Joyce, and others.

For Rainbows Ardley nodded back to Greek Variations, this time developing the suite from the basic five note pelog scale used in Balinese music. It was also the album in which he first explored proto-electronic music—there are three, count 'em, synthesisists here—which became a key interest of his in the late '70s/early '80s.

The suite's seven movements, ranging in mood from the gentle and pastoral to the fiery and urgent, are seriously enjoyable through-compositions in their own right, and also the settings for a series of glistening solos from Ian Carr, Brian Smith, Dave Macrae, Geoff Castle, Paul Buckmaster, Barbara Thompson, Tony Coe, Ken Shaw, and Bob Bertles—with Buckmaster's electric cello on "Rainbow Three," Thompson's soprano on "Four," and Coe's clarinet on "Five" approaching the sublime. Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows lives up to every myth that developed around it during its wilderness years. A landmark album in British jazz.

Neil Ardley - 1972 - A Symphony of Amaranths

Neil Ardley
A Symphony of Amaranths

01. A Symphony Of Amaranths (24:56)
I. Carillon 5:50
II. Nocturne 7:19
III. Entracte 6:06
IV. Impromptu 5:41
02. The Dong With A Luminous Nose 11:42
03. Three Poems (11:13)
I. After Long Silence 4:08
II. She Weeps Over Rahoon 3:21
III. Will You Walk A Little Faster? 3:44

This recording is made with the financial assistance from the Arts Council Of Great Britain.
"After long Silence" (The words of this poem are by W. B. Teats and are used by permission of the copyright owner M. B. Yeats).
"She Weeps Over Rahoon" (By courtesy of The Society Of Authors on behalf of the trustees of the James Joyce Estate).
Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith appear by courtesy of Bronze and Island Records.

Piano [Prepared Piano] – Neil Ardley
Bass – Chris Laurence
Bass – Jeff Clyne
Cello – Charles Tunnell
Cello – Francis Gabarro
Drums – Jon Hiseman
Electric Piano – Karl Jenkins
Engineer – John Mackswith
Glockenspiel – Dave Gelly
Harp – David Snell
Harp – Sidonie Goossens
Harpsichord – Alan Branscombe
Piano, Celesta [Celeste] – Stan Tracey
Soloist, Saxophone – Barbara Thompson (tracks: A1)
Soloist, Saxophone – Dave Gelly (tracks: B2)
Soloist, Saxophone – Dick Heckstall-Smith (tracks: A3, B4)
Soloist, Saxophone – Don Rendell (tracks: A3)
Soloist, Trombone – Derek Wadsworth (tracks: B4)
Soloist, Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Harry Beckett (tracks: A1)
Soloist, Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther (tracks: A2)
Soloist, Vibraphone – Frank Ricotti (tracks: B2)
Trombone – Derek Wadsworth, Ray Premru
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Derek Watkins
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Nigel Carter
Tuba – Dick Hart
Viola – Ken Essex
Violin – Erich Gruenberg
Violin – Jack Rothstein
Violin – Kelly Isaacs
Vocals – Norma Winstone (tracks: B2 to B4)
Woodwind, Bassoon – Bunny Gould
Woodwind, Oboe – John Clementson

It wouldn’t be totally out of line to say that “post-rock,” the merger of rock, electric jazz, minimalism, and progressive music attributable to groups like Tortoise, cornetist Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, or Gastr Del Sol, began decades ago in England. Psychedelic heroes the Soft Machine employed jazz musicians like reedmen Karl Jenkins, Lyn Dobson and Elton Dean; King Crimson boasted pianist firebrand Keith Tippett among its early personnel; Cream bassist Jack Bruce switched to contrabass for a number of jazz ensemble recordings and performances; and prog favorites Colosseum counted free jazzers Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophones), Jon Hiseman (drums) and Tony Reeves (bass) in their ranks. This cross-pollination between creative improvisation and psychedelic/progressive rock wasn’t just limited to English musicians, but it was certainly a noticeable factor in the development of both forms.

Composer-pianist Neil Ardley (1937-2004) may not be one of the most well known in English vanguard circles, but hopefully that will soon change as more of his music resurfaces on disc. Influenced heavily by Miles Davis’ right-hand man Gil Evans, Ardley founded the New Jazz Orchestra in 1963, an ensemble that featured the cream of the British jazz crop and released two records in its lifetime — Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (Verve, 1965) and Western Reunion 1965 (Decca, 1965 — reissued on CD by Vocalion). An expanded NJO cut the shockingly beautiful A Symphony of Amaranths in 1971 under Ardley’s sole leadership, and while garnering Arts Council awards upon its release, it has remained one of the scarcer LPs in Ardley’s catalog. Released by Regal Zonophone (home to Tyrannosaurus Rex’s early LPs), the session features a who’s who of British jazz and rock — Jenkins, Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith appear, as do percussionist Frank Ricotti, trumpeters Derek Watkins, Harry Beckett and Henry Lowther, reed players Don Rendell and Barbara Thompson, pianist Stan Tracey, harpist David Snell, bassists Chris Laurence and Jeff Clyne, and vocalists Ivor Cutler and Norma Winstone. Now, vying for “reissue of the year,” A Symphony of Amaranths has been reissued on CD by Dusk Fire (and on LP via Wah Wah), cut from the original master tapes with an extra track from the same session — an amusingly syrupy tango “National Anthem” that recalls Carla Bley.

The title piece, dedicated to Evans and Duke Ellington, begins with lush and glassine interstices from glockenspiel, vibes, harp, and piano strings before horns and rhythm emerge in a stately, hard chug, bedded by a string ensemble carpet. Beckett and Thompson trade off flugelhorn and soprano saxophone skirls, popping out of a field of cracking traps and cascading detail. The second movement is appropriately titled “Nocturne” and couples taut gong and castanet accents with lilting, throaty strings and woodwinds, a light but cutting sway that supports Lowther’s incisive, romantic trumpet keen. “Entracte” begins with harp, piano, and glockenspiel in trio, reminiscent of Steve Reich at first blush, soon splaying out into crepuscular flourishes. Heckstall-Smith’s burred tenor is front and center on “Impromptu,” the orchestra in painterly washes against the rhythm section’s extraordinary clip. Heckstall-Smith is an interesting contrast against the more studied robustness of Don Rendell (a star of Ardley’s excellent Greek Variations LP from 1970, on Columbia), who follows suit — their trades against brash ensemble passages and pulsing minimalism keep the music from bogging in self-reflection in the final few minutes, encouraging a punchy close.

Surrealist poet and raconteur Ivor Cutler and jazz-rock vocalist Norma Winstone are the stars of “The Dong With A Luminous Nose” and “Three Poems,” which took up the original LP’s second side. Cutler’s dry, warbling delivery is weird enough on its own, but set against impulsive ensemble push and striking orchestral accent it’s part of an absolutely fascinating picture appropriate to Edward Lear’s poem. In fact, the affinity between Cutler and Lear is likely how this three-part collaboration came into being. Ardley wasn’t the first to employ modern poetry with improvised music — English pianist-composer Michael Garrick recorded a number of successful examples for the Argo label during the mid-Sixties as well, to say nothing of the extraordinary collaborations between 20th century “classical” composers and poets. As one might expect, Ardley has written and arranged the music for “The Dong With A Luminous Nose” to the extent that improvisation is less a focal point than inflection and support, which shapes music and word into a balanced whole. Winstone is a powerful singer quite different from Cutler, and soars in her breathy lyric presentations of brief poems by Yeats, Joyce, and Carroll. The music is more open here and recalls the reverberant intensity of Winstone’s own LP The Edge of Time (Argo, 1972, which Ardley participated in), creating a dreamlike but forceful sphere of activity.

A Symphony of Amaranths presents Ardley’s work in gorgeous, full, and detailed sound with copious liner notes and photographs, and is one of the (sadly) rare examples of a reissue done exactly right. Hopefully more of Ardley’s music will see reissue in the near future, but for now this cornerstone set will more than suffice, fleshing out sporadically available examples from his small but rewarding catalog. And while the cast of 29 British improvisers and classical performers really make this set sing, this reissue rightly sets into relief how extraordinary deep one man’s vision was.

A Symphony of Amaranths is composer/polymath Neil Ardley’s most ambitious work, recorded in 1971 by the New Jazz Orchestra with added woodwind, harp and strings, and here (as on the original record) supplemented by settings of Edward Lear’s ‘The Dong with the Luminous Nose’ plus three poems by Yeats, Joyce and Lewis Carroll.

The title composition is ranked by many alongside Ardley’s more famous extended work, Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (sleevenote writer/saxophonist – and glockenspiel player – Dave Gelly calls it a ‘masterpiece’; Duncan Heining, in his recent book-length study of 1960s/1970s British jazz, Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers, describes it as ‘stunningly beautiful ... sensuous and delightful and bold in both conception and execution’), but there are dissenting voices, chief among them the late Richard Cook, who refers to Kaleidoscope as ‘a boring and ponderous record which might almost sum up why British jazz was losing so much of its audience at the time’.

At risk of fence-sitting, it’s easy to see the merits of both opinions, contrasting as they are. A Symphony of Amaranths is indeed grand in conception and adventurous in execution, and its chief merit is the ease and assurance with which it negotiates a path between power and grace, allowing a series of distinctive and skilful soloists (trumpeters Henry Lowther and Harry Beckett, saxophonists Barbara Thompson, Don Rendell and Dick Heckstall-Smith chief among them) to emerge convincingly from the intriguingly multi-textured ensemble sound while never allowing the piece’s momentum to flag for a moment.

The literary settings, however, are a mixed bag, the Lear and Carroll in particular encapsulating all the problems customarily associated with English whimsy of the period, though Norma Winstone sings impeccably and in the process makes Ivor Cutler’s eccentric Lear recital (which even the otherwise positive Heining considers ‘an acquired taste’) sound maddeningly arch. Overall, though, a fascinating snapshot of British jazz at a crucial period in its development.

Neil Ardley and John Leach - 1971 - Mediterranean Intrigue / Martenot

Neil Ardley and John Leach 
Mediterranean Intrigue / Martenot

Mediterranean Intrigue
01. Neil Ardley Barren Landscape 1:58
02. Neil Ardley Journey By Land 2:51
03. Neil Ardley Resting Place 2:43
04. Neil Ardley Sightseeing 2:33
05. Neil Ardley Road To Tranquility 1:43
06. Neil Ardley Minor Suspense 3:05
07. Neil Ardley Mediterranean Hustle 3:31
08. Neil Ardley Mirage 0:44
09. Neil Ardley Minor Scene 0:30
10. Neil Ardley Quiet Return 1:05
11. John Leach Allegro For Martenot A. 1:40
12. John Leach Allegro For Martenot B. 0:50
13. John Leach Mechanical Martenot A. 0:40
14. John Leach Mechanical Martenot B. 0:40
15. John Leach Reflection For Martenot 1:46
16. John Leach Melancholy Martenot 1:15
17. John Leach Gentle Martenot 1:15
18. John Leach Ethereal Martenot 2:03
19. John Leach Suspended Martenot 2:03
20. John Leach Ghostly Martenot 2:10
21. John Leach Martenot Gliss 1. 0:22
22. John Leach Martenot Gliss 2. 0:09
23. John Leach Martenot Gliss 3. 0:04
24. John Leach Martenot Gliss 4. 0:04
25. John Leach Martenot Drone 1:03

Neil Ardley, Ian Carr, Don Rendell - 1970 - Greek Variations

Neil Ardley, Ian Carr, Don Rendell
Greek Variations

01 The Greek Variations
I. Santorin
II. Omonoia
III. Delphi
IV. Kerkyra
V. Meteora
VI. Kriti
02 Wine Dark Lullaby
03 Orpheus
04 Persephone's Jive
05 Farewell Penelope
06 Odysseus, King Of Ithaca
07 Siren's Song
08 Veil Of Ino

Piano - Neil Ardley
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Barbara Thompson (tracks: A)
Bass – Jeff Clyne (tracks: A, B1 to B3)
Bass - Neville Whitehead (tracks: B4 to B7)
Cello – Amaryllis Fleming (tracks: A)
Cello - Charles Tunnel (tracks: A)
Drums – John Marshall (tracks: A, B1 to B3)
Drums - Trevor Tomkins (tracks: B4 to B7)
Electric Bass, Acoustic Bass – Jack Bruce (tracks: A)
Guitar – Chris Spedding (tracks: B1 to B3)
Soprano Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Oboe – Karl Jenkins (tracks: A)
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute [Alto], Clarinet – Don Rendell (tracks: A, B4 to B7)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Stan Robinson (tracks: B4 to B7)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Brian Smith (tracks: B1 to B3)
Trombone – Michael Gibbs (tracks: A)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr (tracks: A, B1 to B3)
Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion – Frank Ricotti (tracks: A)
Viola – Ken Essex (tracks: A)
Violin – Jack Rothstein (tracks: A), Kelly Isaacs (tracks: A)

Neil Ardley was born in 1937 in Wallington, Surrey, England. He was educated at Wallington County Grammar School and Bristol University, where he took a degree in chemistry in 1959. He began to take a practical interest in music at the age of 13, when he started to learn the piano, and later took up the saxophone, playing both instruments in jazz groups at the university. ?  
On leaving university, he went to live in London and joined the John Williams Big Band on piano, writimg his first arrangements and compositions for the band. In 1964, he was invited to become the director of the New Jazz Orchestra, a newly-formed orchestra made up of many of the best young jazz musicians in London. He developed his arranging and composing skills with the NJO, an association that continued until the NJO's last recording in 1973 (apart from a reunion in 1993). Here he met many musicians with whom he was to form lasting friendships, notably Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman, Barbara Thompson, Dave Gelly, Michael Gibbs, Don Rendell and Trevor Tomkins. All played on the subsequent recordings that Neil made under his own name. ?
At the same time, Neil was building a professional career in publishing. In 1962, he joined the editorial staff of the World Book Encyclopedia, an American publisher that set up in London to produce an international edition of the encyclopedia. Over the next four years that the project took, he learnt the craft of writing for young people literally from A to Z. A spell at Hamlyn, then pioneering low-price information books, followed and in 1968 he became a freelance book editor in order to have more time to devote to music. Editing evolved into writing over the 1970s, and he became an author of information books, mainly for children, on natural history (especially birds), science and technology, and music. 
As Neil Ardley developed from an editor to an author in his publishing career, so he developed from an arranger to a composer in his musical career. In the late 1960s, Ian Carr introduced him to Denis Preston, who had a stable of composers and performers - many in the jazz field - that he commissioned and recorded. With Denis' encouragement, Neil composed his first full-length works, developing a style of music that combined classical methods of composition, with their deep emotional return of developing themes and harmonic structures, with the spirit and spontaneity of jazz. His music is very tuneful and often richly orchestrated, as Denis made available a wide range of instruments, including strings, woodwinds and harp, to extend the conventional jazz line-up. Neil continued to explore this vein by adding electronics as synthesizers developed during the 1970s. ?  
In 1980, as Neil began an all-electronic album, his recording contract was abruptly terminated and it was obvious that no viable future lay in music. Fortunately, at this time book design began to progress astonishingly as computers made their way into publishing, and Neil found himself at the forefront of this development when he began to write principally for the innovative British publisher Dorling Kindersley in 1984. There was little energy or time for music as a whole series of DK books evolved, notably the best-selling and award-winning The Way Things Work, which Neil wrote with the brilliant American illustrator David Macaulay and which sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Overall, by the time he retired in 2000, Neil had written 101 books that sold a total of about 10 million copies. 
There was a little new music during this period, notably with the electronic jazz group Zyklus that combined improvisation with electronic methods of composition, but Neil did not find a new composing voice until 2000. He then began to compose choral music, having gained useful experience by singing in local choirs during the late 1990s, and was fully engaged in vocal music until his death in 2004.

Recorded in '69, Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises is irresistible on two counts. First, for its daringly conceived and brilliantly performed music, inspired by Greek folk songs and instrumental textures and deep enough to reveal all its treasures only after many repeated listenings. Second, for being recorded at the moment when the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet, a major force in British straight-ahead jazz since '62, had broken up and Carr's equally influential jazz-rock band Nucleus was rising from the ashes.
The first half of the album has composer Neil Ardley directing a fourteen-piece chamber orchestra featuring Rendell and Carr, plus a supporting cast of creme de la creme British musicians in "The Greek Variations," a six-part suite based on a traditional Greek folk tune. The second half features in turn a quintet led by Carr—Nucleus in all but name—and a quartet led by Rendell, on shorter suites maintaining a Greek flavour and ambience.
An undercurrent of brooding turbulence surfaces at various points in the "Variations" suite, as though some sort of tidal wave might erupt from the Aegean at any moment, but at other times the mood is sunnier and vivacious (or delicately moonlit), and there are lovely solo passages, both improvised and composed, from Frank Ricotti on marimba/vibraphone, Karl Jenkins on oboe, Rendell on alto flute (on which he has a voice as distinctive as on tenor sax) and Carr on flugelhorn. Comparisons with the Miles Davis and Gil Evans collaborations inevitably spring to mind. But Carr, though strongly influenced by Davis, is ultimately his own man, and Ardley is absolutely so too, and the result is an entirely fresh approach to composed/improvised orchestral jazz.
The three Carr-composed tracks are performed by Carr plus Nucleus founding members Brian Smith, Chris Spedding, Jeff Clyne and John Marhsall. "Wine Dark Lullaby" and "Orpheus" conjure up balmy Mediterranean nights, soft and lush, while "Persephone's Jive" is a wild Greek dance made ever more urgent by the sustained clatter of Afrobeat in Spedding's aggressive, staccato comping. Only a few minutes long, but still one of the highlights of the set.
The closing Rendell-composed tracks feature Rendell alongside Stan Robinson, Neville Whitehead and Trevor Tomkins. The wistful "Farewell Penelope" could almost come from a film noir soundtrack, with Rendell's tenor evoking a lonely night-time cityscape. "Odysseus, King of Ithaca" and "Veil of Ino" are fiercer, showing off his well loved ruff 'n' tuff side. 

New Jazz Orchestra - 2017 - On The Radio BBC Sessions 1971

New Jazz Orchestra 
On The Radio BBC Sessions 1971

'Jazz Club', BBC Radio 2 And 3, February 14th 1971
01. Stratusphunk
02. Tanglewood '63
03. Half Blue
04. Pendulum
05. Terre De Miel
06. The Immortal Ninth
'Jazz In Britain' On BBC Radio 3, September 27th 1971
07. The Time Flowers

Bass – Barry Guy (tracks: 7)
Bass, Bass Guitar – Jeff Clyne (tracks: 1-6)
Conductor – Neil Ardley
Drums – Jon Hiseman (tracks: 1-6)
Electric Guitar – Clem Clempson (tracks: 1-6)
Electronics [Electronic Sounds] – Keith Winter (tracks: 7)
Organ, Electric Piano – Dave Greenslade (tracks: 1-6)
Reeds – Barbara Thompson (tracks: 1-6)
Reeds – Brian Smith (tracks: 1-6)
Reeds – Dick Heckstall-Smith (tracks: 1-6)
Reeds, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Don Rendell
Reeds – Dave Gelly (tracks: 1-6)
Strings – London Studio Strings (tracks: 7)
Trombone – Derek Wadsworth (tracks: 1-6)
Trombone – Mike Gibbs (tracks: 1-6)
Trombone – Robin Gardner (tracks: 1-6)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Bud Parkes (tracks: 1-6)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Harry Beckett (tracks: 1-6)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther (tracks: 1-6)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Nigel Carter (tracks: 1-6)
Tuba – Dick Hart (tracks: 1-6)
Vibraphone [Vibes], Percussion – Frank Ricotti
Violin, Leader – Reginald Leopold (tracks: 7)

First ever release of BBC radio sessions by this iconic UK big jazz band
1000 copies ltd. edition pressing

An hour's worth of archival Neil Ardley and the New Jazz Orchestra is always a welcome event since it features the cream of British jazz from the late 1960s, early 70s. But this CD is split into two half hour programmes. The first is a live recording of Neil Ardley conducting the New Jazz Orchestra for the BBC Jazz Club programme, which was first broadcast on February 14th 1971. The second half is also a BBC recording, but for Radio 3's Jazz In Britain, first broadcast September 27th 1971 and is a suite composed by Neil Ardley and Keith Winter entitled "The Time Flowers."

The added bonus of the first broadcast is the quite unusual retention of Humphrey Lyttelton's highly informative announcements. But Humph was not without a very dry sense of humour as witnessed by the example of his typical urbane wit introducing Barbara Thompson's labyrinthine "Terre De Miel," Humph disingenuously refers to himself as having attended "Slough Grammar School" (he actually attended Eton College near Slough).

On the opener, George Russell's lively "Strastusphunk," Henry Lowther, Frank Ricotti, Derek Wadsworth, Dave Gelly and Brian Smith all solo whereas on Mike Gibbs's "Tanglewood '63," Harry Beckett and Dick Heckstall-Smith solo, the latter on tenor and soprano. The following two tracks which segue together seamlessly, are Mike Taylor's "Half Blue" and "Pendulum" on which Ian Carr solos on flugelhorn with typical elegance. In many respects these are the two standout tracks on the album. Taylor was an overlooked genius and his memorable compositions reflect this, utilising perfect arrangements and a rich array of tonal colour and exuberant harmonies.

The final number of the first set "The Immortal Ninth," was composed by Cream bassist Jack Bruce who played double bass on arguably the zenith of the NJO's recordings, Le Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe. This is a rare opportunity to hear the tune Bruce wrote especially for this big band. Another version can be heard on Bruce's 1995 album Monkjack recorded with Bernie Worrell.

The second set is more complex. It was probably pigeon-holed as "experimental" music at the time and the half hour piece was co-composed by Neil Ardley and synthesizer expert Keith Winter (who also appeared playing VCS3 on Ian Carr's Solar Plexus. {Ian Carr}}, Don Rendell, Frank Ricotti and Barry Guy are the four featured soloists. Carr solos on flugelhorn and later on Harmon-muted trumpet. At times, Carr's playing, underpinned by the London Studio Strings, is reminiscent of his masterwork, the "Northumbrian Sketches" suite, recorded for the 1988 album Old Heartland.

Occasionally, the synthesizer is noticeably vying for pole position amongst the horns and Barry Guy contributes swirls of amplified arco double bass, his virtuoso status very much in the ascendant. The music oscillates, sometimes wildly, from contemporary classical, often with a neo-romantic flavour, to out and out avant-garde married with bursts of electronica. Although it may not be Ardley's best or most memorable work, as an archival rarity it is undoubtedly an important testimony to the sounds that were emerging on the scene in the early 1970s, in the wake of psychedelic and progressive rock and nascent fusion. Also significantly, the BBC at that time was more enlightened in terms of the amount of airtime it was prepared to afford contemporary music.

With both sets on one CD weighing-in at an hour's worth in total and in clear stereo too, there's naturally an interesting comparison with Dusk Fire's previous archival release by the New Jazz Orchestra Camden '70. It also begs the question, how much more priceless jazz recorded for BBC radio shows is still extant and yet unreleased?

New Jazz Orchestra - 2008 - Camden '70

New Jazz Orchestra
Camden '70

01. Stratusfunk
02. Tanglewood
03. Shades Of Blue
04. Rope Ladder To The Moon
05. Dusk Fire
06. Naima
07. Nardis
08. Study
09. Rebirth
10. Ballad
11. Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe
12. National Anthem & Tango

Directed By – Neil Ardley
Bass Guitar – Tony Reeves
Drums – Jon Hiseman
Guitar – Clem Clempson
Organ [Hammond], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Dave Greenslade
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Barbara Thompson
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet – Dave Gelly
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Jim Philip
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Dick Heckstall-Smith
Trombone – Derek Wadsworth
Trombone – Mike Gibbs
Trombone – Robin Gardner
Trumpet – Mike Davis
Trumpet – Nigel Carter
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Harry Beckett
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther
Tuba – Dick Hart
Vibraphone, Percussion – Frank Jellett

Recorded live at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, London, WC1. Tuesday 26th May 1970.
During the Camden Festival.

The New Jazz Orchestra (a.k.a. NJO) led by composer / arranger Neil Ardley was Britain’s most prestigious and adventurous big band in the 1960s. Under Ardley’s visionary leadership the band developed the foundations for the modern European Jazz big band sound. Although incorporating the classic American big band tradition of Duke Ellington and the more modern approach of Gil Evans, Ardley managed to steer his band into uncharted territory, using his unique approach to instrumentation and bold arrangements. At the time this album was recorded live at London’s Camden Jazz Festival in May of 1970, Ardley was already moving rapidly towards the exploding Jazz-Rock Fusion genre, creating one of the first, and magnificent at that, examples of Jazz-Rock Fusion big band. Compared to American bands at the time, like Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago, Ardley’s approach is definitely much more refined and orchestral and uses a wider arsenal of the Jazz vocabulary, being therefore much more sophisticated. Having at his disposal some of the best British Jazz musicians (and then also Jazz-Rock Fusion musicians) he was able to turn the NJO into a “mean” and powerful Jazz-Rock Fusion ensemble, which truly fuses Jazz and Rock to the max. This of course brings us the players and more specifically to the fact that this version of NJO incorporates in its midst the entire lineup of one of the greatest British Jazz-Rock groups, Colosseum. Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone), Clem Clempson (guitar), Dave Greenslade (keyboards), Tony Reeves (bass) and Jon Hiseman (drums) all play here, and even a couple of tracks the band recorded on their albums are present, in a big band arrangement of course. With the members of Colosseum as a core of the band and with other notable players like Henry Lowther and Harry Beckett (trumpet), Dave Gelly and Barbara Thompson (saxophone) and even an ultra-rare appearance of Michael Gibbs on trombone, this is truly a superb group, able to face any challenge Ardley’s arrangements may present them with. BTW the presence of the Colosseum members is not incidental, as both Reeves and Hiseman were NJO’s founding members and Heckstall-Smith appeared on the NJO’s second album entitled “Le Dejeuner Sur L`Herbe”. Seven of the tracks present on that album are also included here, which turns this recording into an updated live version of that timeless classic. The original recording tape of this concert had quite a few technical problems, but was painstakingly and beautifully restored to life with an exceptional sound quality considering the circumstances under which it was recorded. One should be truly grateful to the producer of this immensely important historical material for making it available to us, the fans of NJO, Colosseum and British Jazz in general. This is indispensable legacy of the period and a must to any follower of British Jazz music.

New Jazz Orchestra - 1965 - Western Reunion (London 1965)

New Jazz Orchestra 
Western Reunion (London 1965)

01. Big P
02. Shades Of Blue
03. So What
04. If You Could See Me Now
05. Tiny's Blues
06. Milestone
07. Django
08. Maria
09. Western Reunion

Directed By, Leader – Neil Ardley
Alto Saxophone – Barbara Thompson
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Trevor Watts
Baritone Saxophone – Sebastian Freudenberg
Bass – Tony Reeves
Bass Trombone – Peter Harvey
Drums – Jon Hiseman
Flute, Alto Flute – Les Carter
French Horn – Mick Palmer
Piano – Lionel Grigson (tracks: 5)
Piano – Mike Barrett (tracks: 1 to 4, 6 to 10)
Tenor Saxophone – Dave Gelly
Tenor Saxophone – Tom Harris
Trombone – John Mumford, Paul Rutherford
Trumpet – Bob Leaper
Trumpet – Mike Phillipson
Trumpet – Tony Dudley
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr
Tuba – Dick Hart

Recorded at Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London 14 March 1965

The New Jazz Orchestra (a.k.a. NJO) was a big band directed by bandleader / arranger / composer Neil Ardley and consisted of the best up-coming Jazz players on the British scene at the time (Ian Carr – trumpet, Paul Rutherford – trombone, Trevor Watts – sax, Barbara Thompson – sax, Tony Reeves – bass, John Hiseman – drums and many more). Ardley ran the orchestra with an “iron fist” and in time turned it into a perfectly well oiled ensemble, which was able to perform even the trickiest arrangements with a breeze. His outstanding arrangements of classic Jazz pieces are all masterpieces of rare beauty and sophistication and he manages to get out of the band so much more that an average US big band playing similar material. Of course the soloist, who are all quite outstanding, add another dimension to the overall sound, which is truly heavenly. This is the first album by NJO and includes mostly standards by American (Miles Davis, John Lewis) and British composers, but one of Ardley’s compositions is also included. Ardley, who was an admirer of Gil Evans, developed a distinctive “orchestral” (rather than traditional big band) sound with NJO, using the various sections of the band to complement each other’s sound and tonality. The overall effect is absolutely stunning and this is one of my all time favorite big band albums. This is essential listening to all big band fans and recommended to all Jazz listeners out there. A true gem!