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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Voice of the North Jazz Orchestra with Jason Yarde & John Warren @ Darlington Arts Centre. November 6th

Jason Yarde (composer, conductor, alto & sop. sax), John Warren (composer & conductor), Paul Edis (piano), Andy Champion (double bass), Adrian Tilbrook (drums), Graham Hardy (trumpet), Sean Hollis (trumpet & flugel), Shaun Eland (trumpet & flugel), Noel Dennis (trumpet & flugel), Matt Ball (trombone), Alex Leathard (trombone), Keith Norris (trombone), Chris Hibbard (bass trombone), Sue Ferris (tenor sax & flute), Lewis Watson (tenor & sop.sax), Rod Mason (alto sax & flute), Andy Bennett (alto sax), Bill Sneddon (baritone sax). A near capacity audience at Darlington Arts Centre greeted Voice of the North with a sense of anticipation, if not apprehension, as to what lay ahead.
The orchestra had been in rehearsal mode attempting to get to grips with Jason Yarde's compositions (including a suite commissioned by Jazz Action - the north east's jazz development agency) and last night was examination time.
The opening number was somewhat familiar territory to the band as it was John Warren (VOTN's musical director) who took up the baton to revisit 'The Picture Tree' from his 1971 album 'Tales of the Algonquin'.
Jason Yarde followed and upped the ante stretching the band to the limit with compositions old (Jazz Warriors) and new. The band sections concentrated intently on their written parts, counting, almost aloud, glancing along the line to catch an eye, hopefully a reassuring eye, that all was well. Much pointing at charts, heads nodding in agreement, all the while watching Maestro Yarde, dancing and directing the ensemble, coaxing new colours and textures from the ranks.
All was well, loud applause greeted solo contributions and at the conclusion of the first number there was visible puffing out of cheeks from band and audience alike.
This was going to be one great night.
Graham Hardy took the exposed solo trumpet parts and did so fearlessly. The trombone section had last minute changes in personnel and Leeds College of Music graduate Matt Ball was outstanding in several solo excursions. Lewis Watson impressed on tenor, Sue Ferris on tenor and flute. Jovial Rod Mason ran with it, so too Andy Bennett and Bill Sneddon anchored the reeds.
The second set featured the commissioned work 'Four Letter Words for Four Letters Heard'. In explaining the genesis of the piece Yarde unleashed a torrent of four letter words such as 'jazz' and 'love' - a beautiful moment. Thirty five minutes later and the premiered work was done. Voice of the North passed with flying colours - grade A, no, make that grade A* students, one and all.
The boys in the engine room were tremendous - Paul Edis, playing the Arts Centre's beautiful grand piano, was immersed in the music, Andy Champion gave a towering performance and drummer Adrian Tilbrook is the only one I can think of who could nail it as he did from first note to last - absolutely outstanding. Yarde's writing recalls the roar of Mingus and the complexity of George Russell fused with a contemporary mix of funk and hip hop elements.
A memorable night it was and it can be heard again at next year's Gateshead Jazz Festival - tickets on sale now. Photos courtesy Adrian Tilbrook/Andy Mayo.

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