|East London Creative Jazz Orchestra
Photo Credit: Katie Henfrey
East London Creative Jazz Orchestra, Reginald Thomas, Terell Stafford
(Barbican, 3rd July 2011, Review by Sam Braysher)
The East London Creative Jazz Orchestra performed an engaging set of improvised and student-generated pieces alongside classic big band arrangements, joined by trumpeter Terell Stafford and pianist Reginald Thomas from Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Sean Gregory, Director of Creative Learning for both the Guildhall School and the Barbican Centre explained in a pre-concert talk that the ELCJO comprises young musicians from the ten Olympic Gateway Boroughs. Members of the ELCJO receive jazz coaching from Guildhall School teachers, as well as masterclasses and workshops from international names: at the London Jazz Festival last November they had performed with Robert Glasper as part of the London Jazz Festival.
Guitarist and workshop leader Paul Griffiths began the concert by guiding the ensemble through Intersection, a piece that the orchestra had created themselves in rehearsals and learned entirely by ear. The by-product of this approach – which prioritises listening and playing over reading and theorising – seems to be that the ELCJO is able to tackle some surprisingly complex repertoire. How many youth bands, for example, would attempt the shifting time signatures and relatively complex harmonies we heard at various points tonight?
Thomas and Stafford, two inspiring educators and all-round ambassadors for jazz, then took to the stage and sprinkled the rest of the half with crowd-pleasing solo interjections on piano and trumpet respectively. During Mary Lou Williams’ Walkin’ and Swinging’ Reginald Thomas, gradually, gently nudged the ELCJO’s young pianist to one side of the piano stool. Side by side, the two players then traded eights with a good-natured competitiveness. It was a moment which captured the spirit of the evening.
Led by British trombonist and arranger Ed Puddick, the band continued in showcasing some more traditional big band music in this vein with Ellington’s Jive Jam providing a rousing end to the set.
The second half of the evening saw the Barbican Young Orchestra – conducted by Edward Gardner and joined by young soprano Sophie Bevan – performing familiar repertoire by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.