October 10th 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the first ever rehearsal of “The London Schools Jazz Orchestra,” which later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street in London. As part of its anniversary celebrations, NYJO has been preparing an extensive video and photo archive on its website. So far, recordings from the first thirty of NYJO’s fifty years are available.
Some of the earliest footage was of a programme made for the COI in 1970 (above). Ted Rockley, who has been mainly responsible for bringing this history to life, annotating and transferring the videos to Youtube, explains the background. Ted writes :
Bill Ashton OBE, the founder of NYJO has a wall of shelves full of VHS tapes containing various recordings of NYJO over the years. Before it becomes too difficult to play these tapes, it was important to get them digitised.
What I found made my jaw drop! Revealed in the dusty VHS cases of off-air recordings, copies of domestic or corporate videos or early keen amateur videographer efforts was a truly amazing testimony of NYJO’s story, the players that it helped develop and the players that helped develop it. It became clear that it would be possible to tell NYJO’s story in pictures and sound.
That was two years ago. Transferring and fixing up the material was a lengthy process and we gradually and discreetly built up the library on Youtube, but hid it.
Now to commemorate the NYJO anniversary the library is being made available decade by decade together with historic photos, an Alumni list and Alumni bios via the NYJO website. The first three decades are now up. Once all five decades are up, more material and detail will be added in as it becomes available. There are around one hundred and fifty videos, some quite long of entire gigs, so we developed archive pages on the NYJO website organised decade by decade.
NYJO has a recording history too, some forty albums and their covers and liner notes are used as stepping stones along the way. All the liner notes are readable. Together with the Alumni lists and bios being compiled by Steve Harris, also a NYJO Trustee we’ll eventually get the history as complete as possible.
The exercise revealed forgotten treasures. One of NYJO’s first trumpeters Dave Rose contacted to say he had found some 8mm home movie he had shot on the band’s first trips abroad in 1967. Though silent, and mostly of bandmembers relaxing (he couldn’t film and play!) it’s staggering to see, not least because of sight of the aeroplane they got on. Until this turned up it was thought the earliest moving footage was of a programme made for the COI in 1970 (above)
– Then there’s 12 year old Nigel Hitchcock teaching Maggie Philbin to play saxophone (LINK), and then back in the studio noodling over some pop song! Is this Nigel’s first session?LINK
– 1977 saw the band being given an entire ‘Magpie’ programme to demonstrate big band jazz with a young Guy Barker in the trumpets and playing charts by Ken Gibson (LINK).
– A clip from 1988 (above) shows trumpeter Gerard Presencer and drummer Chris Dagley both impossibly young in a NYJO small combo at ITV’s Fun Factory dealing with a hyperactive presenter yet still delivering amazing jazz.
– There were numerous appearances on BBC lunchtime Pebble Mill, including some with Shorty Rogers, (LINK)
– Astonishingly in 1984 NYJO serves as the backing band for Peggy Lee, Jimmy Witherspoon and Buddy Greco! (LINK)
– There is a feature on BBC Omnibus presented by Humphrey Burton from 1976 (LINK)
– A 1978 Royal Variety Show appearance with (no kidding) Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball (LINK)
– From 1981 Channel 4’s very first documentary, the orchestra on tour in Turkey! (LINK)
|Julie Walters and NYJO in 1982|
– Even Julie Walters sings with the band in 1982. (LINK)
– And if you think you know how Satellite TV in Britain started, think again, four amazing clips from 1987 show the shocking truth! (LINK)
– Several programmes entirely devoted to NYJO such as the 1974 BBC2 programme ‘In Concert’ (LINK)
– A 1977 Derek Jewell-narrated documentary of life on the road ‘North with NYJO’ (LINK)
|George Chisholm and NYJO in 1977|
– ‘NYJO’s World of Music’ with George Chisholm. (LINK)
Then there are the amateur and corporate recordings to do with various sponsorships and promotions.
Many of these tapes show signs of wear and deterioration, some are copies of copies, and though some are off air recordings, they have been made to run as well as possible and given the NYJO 50year Archive logo to identify and deter commercial exploitation. It’s incredibly fortunate that Bill preserved so much, although it’s a task to organise and display along with all the photos it has been a revelation to me, a reminder of the scale of what Bill achieved and a great opportunity to get NYJO’s story in one place.
And there is much more to come, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Who said that? Remind me…
Ted Rockley is a NYJO Trustee
NYJO are currently in search of:
– An appearance on Opportunity Knocks, around 1974
– A recording of the very first appearances of the London Schools Jazz Orchestra (a) on BBC2 Late Night Line up and (b) on a BBC News item.
If anyone has any recordings or photos of NYJO they would like to share or to contribute to the Alumni bios and listings please contact the NYJO office info (at) nyjo (dot) org (dot) uk