|The stage set at the Konzerthaus in Dortmund for the
September 2016 ‘Three Nations..” tour
Photo courtesy of BuJazzO
At the end of this month the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) will collaborate with its German and Dutch counterparts as part of a project called ‘Three Nations Under One Groove, which will see the bands join forces for three days of intensive rehearsal and jam sessions, before touring to Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (29 March), Kings Place London (30 March) and Gateshead International Jazz Festival (1 April). We caught up with the bands’ three musical directors, Mark Armstrong (NYJO) Jiggs Whigham (BuJazzO) and Martin Fondse (NJJO):
LJN: What are you most looking forward to about the Three Nations Under One Groove UK tour?
Mark Armstrong: Seeing all the musicians working together again and doing some really great exciting concerts with them – re-forming the community that we so successfully put together at the end of last year.
Jiggs Whigham: These three wonderful jazz orchestras play together with such spontaneity – they just play their tails off. There’s positive competition, there’s no fear and there’s no ‘our band’s better than your band’. I’m very proud of them.
LJN: What did you enjoy most about the last time all three bands were together?
Jiggs Whigham: Each orchestra brings a different tradition with them and a different concept – we’re all singing the same song just in a different key.
Mark Armstrong: It’s integral to the whole point of the tour, to make them realise that there are three different nations communicating in the same language – the language of jazz!
Martin Fondse: The whole social complex was also really great; with eating and drinking and jamming you have a chance to meet each other. I think it is a beautiful approach to bringing people together.
LJN: What repertoire can we expect as part of the tour?
Mark Armstrong: It’s going to feature music selected by all three musical directors, which sits nicely with the artistic flavour of each group. Martin Fondse is a great composer and he will bring a lot of his original material. Jiggs Whigham will bring Cuban Fire, which is a brilliant example of repertoire that is simultaneously exciting and swings, and has artistic clout. I’m going to be mixing it up in the way we normally do in NYJO – some contemporary music, some classics from the big band genre as it’s developed through the years, and also some pieces written by current members of the band.
Martin Fondse: I was already writing a suite called The Future Is Now, especially for NJJO. It’s called The Future is Now because I see the players in the NJJO not as students but as young professionals and I treat them like that. I think it is really important because then you get more back, and the level of playing is so high.
Jiggs Whigham: I have a very close connection to Cuban Fire and memories of it which are indelible. When you listen to Johnny Richards’s music, it’s still fresh as a daisy. These wonderful young musicians have embraced this music and are extremely serious about it. They want to play it right and they do.
LJN: What is it about this tour and the intensive rehearsal period which makes it so special?
Mark Armstrong: British music is characterised by not having enough time to rehearse. It’s really great to have time in a relaxed manner without feeling like the clock is against us. It increases people’s feeling of focus and concentration, and enables them to internalise and understand what the music is about.
|The three bands on stage at the Konzerthaus in Dortmund
Photo Courtesy of BuJazzO
LJN: How would you describe the sound of each band?
Mark Armstrong: BuJazzO has fantastically consistent and well balanced sound – tonally they’ve got this fantastic blend and sense of ensemble in everything they do. With the Dutch band there’s this really fun sense of spontaneity and playfulness, and a strong sense of groove, particularly in the more contemporary repertoire. With NYJO of course I’d like to say we have both of those things!
LJN: What do you think the reaction of UK audiences will be to the Three Nations tour?
Jiggs Whigham: We’re going to leave people saying ‘Wow! Did you hear that?!’
With thanks to Jonathan Carvell of NYJO for the preparation of the article