New Jazz Orchestra ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe’ (Dusk Fire) 5/5

new-jazz-orchestraRe-issues of classic British jazz recordings are thankfully a relatively common event these days, but there is nothing distinctly ordinary, or indeed commonplace about this superlative larger ensemble album from 1968. From this album have emerged tracks on Jazz Britannia compilations over the last fifteen years or so bearing the name of DJ Giles Peterson. The brainchild of composer, arranger and musician Neil Ardley, this magnificent piece of modern jazz orchestration takes a leaf out of the work of both Gil Evans and Duke Ellington, who are clearly major influences upon the mind-set of Ardley, while from a classical perspective the sounds of Debussy and Ravel and early Stravinsky have otherwise exerted their influence upon the arranger. Assembling an all-star cast of British jazz musicians in their prime and these include the late Jack Bruce, Ian Carr, Michael Gibbs, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Henry Lowther among many others, the album is brimming with luscious interpretation of both standards and then new compositions. Of the former, the take on Miles’ ‘Nardis’ takes on something of a late 1950s feel with the use of vibes, a restrained trumpet solo from Carr and an extended bass solo. More than anywhere else, the Davis-Evans collaboration hovers over the title track and this includes the precise clarity of tone of Carr, the Spanish tinge in the use of castanets and some glorious soprano saxophone playing. Gentle in tone, but with a slightly darker and even underlying brooding nature is a version of Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ which features a delicate flute solo and even briefly a freer direction on saxophone. Of the new compositions on offer from British jazz musicians, pride of place goes to the modal number ‘Dusk Fire’ with fine ensemble work and some delicious soprano saxophone. A ballad, same titled, by pianist Mike Taylor is a reflective number with sensitive accompaniment and some subtle shading. This album follows on from the previously re-issued ‘Symphony of Amarinths’ and is certainly a candidate for most prestigious re-issue of the year.

Tim Stenhouse