Players show virtues of big band sound

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland has its origins in a summer school run by the National Youth of Orchestra of Scotland since 1991, but it did not make its debut until 1996.

This year's summer tour took it to Gateshead and Carlisle as well as Perth, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a sixth concert planned in Edinburgh on August 20.

NYJoS has gone through a number of changes in the past decade, including an ideological conflict over the direction it should take. Simon Purcell and Tom Bancroft, the band's directors in 2001-2, attempted to move it away from big band routines to a more creative, improvisation-based frame of reference, but Richard Chester, the director of NYoS, became concerned that the band's technical standard was neither high nor consistent.

The current directors, Malcolm Edmonstone and Andrew Bain, are both former members of the band, and have clearly opted to nurture the conventional virtues of big band performance, with a strong, swinging rhythm section, disciplined ensemble playing and a good standard of solos.

The brass players currently seem more advanced than the saxophonists in that regard, and the trumpets and trombones had the greater share of the solos during the band's performance at the Malmaison hotel as part of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.

The players opened with a crisp selection of classic American big band music, including contributions from the repertoire of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Having laid out their credentials, they turned to two suites by Scottish musicians.

When trumpeter Duncan Lamont heard they were to perform his Carnival of the Animals, he offered to help with the rehearsals and recording of the work (the band will release a CD later in the year) and was at this performance.

His piece fills in some of the animals left out of Saint-Sa ns' classical original, including chattering monkeys, elephants and skipping kangaroos. It had an Ellingtonian opulence in its colour and textures, and the players coped well with the challenges.

Edmonstone's Scotland Suite was an NYJoS commission. He focused on ensemble writing in his settings of three 17th-century folk tunes, with a rather martial prelude and versions of both the original and universally known melody for "Auld Lang Syne".

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