London Jazz Orchestra @ the Vortex (09/02/04)

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by JackD, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. JackD

    JackD Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 30, 2003
    Manchester / London
    For those of you that don't know, the London Jazz Orchestra is Noel Langley's (lonelyangel) band.

    I managed to catch up with them at their monthly slot at the Vortex in London, and I'm glad I did! Noel asked me to write a review, so here are some of my thoughts about what was a great evening.

    To satisfy your curiosity, and to get the most important part out first, the band included a trumpet section of: Noel Langley, Henry Lowther, Jay Phelps, and someone whose name I can't remember (sorry!). Both Noel and Jay were playing Eclipses (first time I've seen one of these - they really do look even nicer in real life) and these horns sounded as nice as they looked.

    The ensemble sections were very tight, and there was some great sizzling high-note playing complimented equally well by the luscious basement provided by a bass-trombone, bass-clarinet and baritone.

    Most of the material the band played was original, featuring the premiere of the band director's (whose name I can't recall) "Travels Suite", and several compositions / arrangements by Henry Lowther.
    I was struck by the interesting orchestration and great themes featured in these compositions, which were always supported by a driving, swinging rhythm section.

    I came in a little early, and caught the band rehearsing some tunes, one of which had only just been introduced to them - I would not have known had it not been announced.

    There were some fantastic solos played by Henry Lowther, who really dug into the changes one one of his own tunes, "E-mona" (I think), and one from Jay Phelps in the "Travels Suite", whose luscious tone and elegant control was, for me, reminiscent of a New Orleans flavoured Clifford Brown.

    It was great to catch up with and hear Noel Langley play with such a good band. I can safely say that his reputation is well-deserved - watching the LJO, I was reminded of the Bernie Glow quote that Larry Giani posted in the East/West Coast post: "To be a good lead trumpet player, as I mentioned before, you don’t stick out. Sticking out in an ensemble is making people come in and say “Oh, listen to that lead trumpet player, isn’t he great. It’s not your function. Your function is to have people walk in and say†Oh, listen to that band, doesn’t it sound wonderful."

    I certainly thought they sounded wonderful.
  2. lonelyangel

    lonelyangel Pianissimo User

    Nov 8, 2003
    Thanks for the review Jack and it was really good to meet you and put a face to the name.
    I am glad you enjoyed the gig - it was quite a tough program given that we premiered about 6 pieces that night. Also there were 8 deputies in the band (out of a total of 17 players) including lead alto, lead trombone and drums!!
    I think I can safely say that you didn't catch the band at our most relaxed, but perhaps the fact that we were all on the edge of our seats added an energy to the gig that night. I formed the London Jazz Orchestra around 15 years ago now and it is a huge logistical task to get each chair covered for our monthly residancy at the Vortex - but it can be a richly rewarding experience and usually the gigs end up being very special occasions.

    Just to clear up a couple of points for the record. The musical director of the band, who's new suite we performed last Monday, is Scott Stroman. I met Scott over 20 years ago when we were both students at the Guoildhall School of Music. I was in my first year and Scott was a post graduate who had come over from America to study trombone with Denis Wick and composition with Carl Davis. I think Scott studied on the jazz program at North Illinois University (near Chicago?) and then went on to Miami university - I think as a teacher, before coming to the UK. He one the Down Beat award for best student big band composition in about 1980 with his chart 'Spring Fever'.

    Whilst we were at college we formed a students Union big band (outside of the official course at the Guildhall) and got Scott to direct that band. We rehearsed weekly and played gigs in a local pub and at the Union bar. The following year that band became an official college ensemble and Scott secured a teaching post at the college as director of the new post graduate course in Jazz and Studio music - which was the first course of its kind in the UK. Over the last 20 myears the alumni of that coures reads like a who's who of the contemporary British jazz scene.
    Scott no longer plays trombone very often - due to suffering from an attack of Bells Palsy some years ago but is much in demand as a jazz educator, choir master, composer, classical conductor and is one of the hardest working, energetic musicians I have ever met. He is a great motivator and has created enourmous amounts of work for hundreds of musicians with his can do approach and a wonderfully positive attitude to seeing ideas come to fruition.

    On a personal note I must give Scott a great deal of credit for exposing me to ideas about lead trumpet playing and big band disciplines that I would never have had access to had we not met. His overriding concern as a director is to get to the heart of the music, to have the band play with passion and courage as well as taking no prisoners with regard to the intricate details of phrasing, dynamics and balance which can bring a score to life.

    The trumpet player who's name you couldn't remember is Tom Rees-Roberts, and may I say, that is a name you shouldn't forget!
    Tom is one of the most gifted players you are ever likely to meet, he is just emerging on to the comercial scene in London and is fast establishing an excellent reputation as a player of the highest quality. He currently holds down the trumpet chair in the West End smash hit, "Jerry Springer the Opera" - which is just about the hardest trumpet chair I have ever seen in a theatre pit (look out all you guys in Broadway - this show rocks!). I am also very proud to say that Tom was one of my students at the Guildhall.

    I formed the LJO about 15 years ago now - initially as a vehicle for me to continue to learn the art of playing lead trumpet. When I first left college I was lucky enough to pick up a great deal of work but, as the new kid on the block, opportunities to play lead trumpet in a big band were few and far between. I was also missing the intensity of regular and exacting rehearsals and the opportunity to explore repertoire in a thorough and creative way - rather than just turning up and sight reading on sessions and concerts. We started out as a rehearsal band meeting every monday morning and rehearsed regularly for 18 months before our first gigs. Gradually the players in the band began to show up with new charts written for the players they came to know and the LJO evolved into a band with a real identity all of its own. It was a kind of organic process which I could not have predicted and I am very proud of all the wonderful music that my germ of an idea has brought in to this world.

    Three years ago the band undertook a recording project and two European tours with the drummer Billy Cobham - performing his original compositions arranged for the band by Scott. One of the highlights of that tour was a concert we gave one spectacularly beautiful summer evening in a ruined roman amphitheatre in Sicilly in front of an audience 4 thousand people. That night made all the hours of heartache and headache involved in fixing a band to play at the cozy little club in Stoke Newington every month worth while.

    You can catch us theere again on the second monday night of every month until further notice. If you decide to drop in, please be sure to come and say hello - it would mean a lot to me.

    All the best. Noel.
  3. JackD

    JackD Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 30, 2003
    Manchester / London
    As ever Noel, a very interesting post.

    Thanks for filling in the gaps - as I said I was very impressed by the whole band, but espescially by the trumpet section.

    I'll keep my eyes open for Tom Rees-Roberts.
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Pianissimo User

    Hi Noel

    2 questions... :)

    1. When is the next LJO gig at the Vortex?
    2. Where is the Vortex?

    Hope all is well!

    Off topic really, but I went to 2 shows here in the West End recently..

    Les Miserable - Verdict.. not enough trumpet!! :shock: In fact I got bored really, was in one of those seats in the theatre that requires an oxygen mask and you view the stage via a link up with the hubble telescope..... :?

    Rat Pack - Verdict.. lots of trumpet.. those guys nailed it all night!! Superb!! (oh, the actor chaps weren't bad either!!)
  5. JackD

    JackD Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 30, 2003
    Manchester / London
    David -

    I'm not Noel, but I can fill you in on your questions:

    1) Monday 8th March - they play the second Monday of every month.

    2) Stoke Newington (in North London)

    Check for more information
  6. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Pianissimo User

    Cheers, Jack D...

    Doh!, got a gig starting that night on Broadway.. er Ealing Broadway that is...

    I'll keep a look out for future gigs...

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