REVIEW: National Youth Jazz Collective 10th Anniversary Concert at Kings Place

Julian Joseph and Dave Holland
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

National Youth Jazz Collective 10th Anniversary All-Star Concert
(Kings Place Hall One. 12th August 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This is the kind of occasion that jazz people do so well. The National Youth Jazz Collective’s tenth anniversary gala concert pooled and combined talents of no fewer than twenty top musicians, to make something unique, unrepeatable and special. It was  a privilege to be there.

NYJC have many good reasons to celebrate the achievements of the past ten years, and this concert had a shape, a purpose and a sense of build-up which showed the imprint of NYJC founder Issie Barratt‘s programming instincts, and her thoughtful and careful forward planning.

The final sequence, devised by Dave Holland, was a delight. The bassist stayed put, in that place where singers stand, the “crook” of the piano, to welcome a succession of people to the stage to join not just him, but also –  as Holland pointed out on Twitter –  drummer Mark Mondesir, an inspiring and constant presence throughout this set, who conjured up all kinds of wonderful textures and interjections, including one which mesmerised me: an improbably fast shimmering shaker-type fill from rapid repeat on the hi-hat.

The sequence of mini-sets started with Norma Winstone and Nikki Iles in John Taylor’s O. It set exactly the right tone for what was to follow, enabling the mood of celebration to build. There was joy, elation written across every gesture, every inflection of the late John Taylor’s composition O. Then quartet became sextet with the addition of eloquent soloists and texture-bringers saxophonist Karen Sharp and guitarist Dominic Ashworth for Nikki Iles’ piece Tideway,  a relatively new piece inspired both by the sea breezes of the Kent coast and the classic Tom Jobim/ Elis Regina collaborations. Then a change of mood again for the entrance of  Julian Joseph (who is Vice-President of the organization) and Cleveland Watkiss for Joseph’s  tune Heartbeat, and finally a nonet version of Dave Holland’s tune Dream of the Elders.

Laura Jurd and Tori Freestone
Photo credit: Melod Mclaren

Earlier in the concert there had been one NYJC alumna from the organisation’s very early days –  Laura Jurd – currently nominated for the Mercury Prize, who combined very effectively with saxophonist Tori Freestone to tell convincing stories in Freestone’s composition Avocado Deficit. The quintet led by Chris Batchelor and Martin Speake showed what classy players both of them are, with the final number Secret Cloud letting Speake to construct a powerful solo. There was also a lively solo piano contribution from Nikki Yeoh, and an opening set  from a group led by Digby Fairweather. His skills as raconteur and MC are well known, but the surprise – to me at least – was that the three finely crafted arrangements, not publicly credited, were also by him.

This concert, the culmination of a whole day of celebration (FULL DETAILS HERE), gave a strong sense of the valuable work which NYJC does. There were eloquent introductions from Issie Barratt, and an appeal from Executive Director Andy Thornton, who explained that NYJC is aiming to expand its size, geographical reach, and its scope to give bursaries, with help from the Big Give donation-matching scheme (more detail here). There were also some very well-made short films explaining the operation and the ethos of the organisation, which allowed the students to explain in their own words how it feels to be a participant. The words “inclusive” and “open” seemed to crop up a lot, and one participant said rather eloquently that the NYJC experience had taught her “to blend and to fit.”

NYJC is a vital organisation in the UK musical landscape, and its well-deserved day of celebration shows that it is embarking on its second decade with impressive momentum, confidence and a real sense of mission.

Digby Faiirweather’s group performing the opening set
Photo credit: Melody McLaren



Digby Fairweather (trumpet)
Mick Foster (alto/ baritone sax)
Karen Sharp (clarinet and tenor sax)
Malcolm Earle Smith (trombone)
Dominic Ashworth (guitar)
Tom Hewson (piano)
Mark Hodgson (bass)
Nic France (drums)

If I had you  – Ted Shapiro
The very thought of you – Ray Noble
Diggin’ in – Digby Fairweather


Dance of the Two Small Bears (Yeoh)


Chris Batchelor (trumpet)
Martin Speake (alto sax)
Orphy Robinson (vibes, effects)
Mark Hodgson (bass)
Nic France (drums)

The Road, The Sky, The Moon (Chris Batchelor)
Improv – with Cleveland Watkiss
Secret Wood (Martin Speake)



Laura Jurd – Trumpet
Tori Freestone – Tenor
Tom Hewson – Piano
Andy Robb – Bass
Mark Mondesir – Drums

Extinct (Laura Jurd)
Avocado Deficit (Tori Freestone)
Dare I (Tom Hewson)

“Joy, elation written across every gesture and inflection”
Nikki Iles, Dave Holland, Mark Mondesir and Norma Winstone
Photo credit: Melody McLaren


1) Dave Holland -Bass
Norma Winstone – Voice
Nikki Iles – Piano
Mark Mondesir – Drums

 O (John Taylor)

2) Norma Winstone – Voice
Karen Sharp – Tenor
Dominic Ashworth – guitar
Dave Holland -Bass
Nikki Iles – Piano
Mark Mondesir – Drums

Tideway (Nikki Iles & Norma Winstone)

3) Cleveland Watkiss- Voice
Dave Holland -Bass
Julian Joseph – Piano
Mark Mondesir – Drums

Heartbeat  (Julian Joseph)

4) Norma Winstone – Voice
Chris Batchelor – Trumpet
Martin Speake – Alto Sax
Tori Freestone – Tenor Sax
Malcolm Earle Smith – Trombone
Mick Foster – Baritone
Dave Holland -Bass
Julian Joseph – Piano
Mark Mondesir – Drums

Dream of The Elders (Dave Holland)

Organizer and NYJC Artistic Director Issie Barratt
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

LINK: How to support the  NYJC tenth birthday appeal

Categories: miscellaneous

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