Nikki Iles Jazz Orchestra at Ronnie Scott’s – London Jazz News
Nikki Iles Jazz Orchestra
(Ronnie Scott’s. March 6, 2022. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The Nikki Iles Jazz Orchestra’s “Face to Face” tour was originally scheduled to take place in 2020. It has…finally…reached its joyous conclusion.
Each musician on stage seemed not only to prove at every moment a deep belief in this music and in the emotions and stories it can express and convey, but also a singularly deep understanding of every bit of its character, its utterly compelling meaning . of stream, and the craft behind him. There was, after all, a significant proportion of the band that conducted and wrote for their own large ensembles.
The program has also been unerringly generous in its recognition and gratitude to other influential arrangers. The majority of the pieces are Iles’ recent repertoire and a series of commissions, but she also clearly reveres the craft of others: Vince Mendoza, Fred Sturm, Steve Gray and Stan Sulzmann have all been hailed and honored in different ways.
My LJN colleague, Mike Collins, has done a superb job reporting on this band’s performances – links to their first official 2018 gig at the Vortex and their November 2021 are below. He wrote last year about “a sound and a repertoire that weaves together so many musical threads”. The idea definitely resonated on Sunday night. As John Fordham’s reporting of this concert points out, Nikki Iles’ emphasis on large ensembles may be relatively recent, but its roots go back a long way and the presence on stage of musicians who have been colleagues since Creative Jazz Orchestra era like Mike Walker and Andy Schofield emphasize this sense of strong continuity.
These different creative threads are everywhere. Iles is just as authentic when evoking the English folk tradition – and its folk-rock iteration – in “Highlands” as it is when evoking Geri Allen’s Detroit/Motown roots.
Inspiration is a two-way process. Nikki Iles thanked the musicians who. with their “different personalities to bring my music to life”. In a way, that was to be expected, because to a large extent she wrote it to be played by them. Solo feature films, written and dedicated to two great figures of our scene, trumpeter Henry Lowther and trombonist Gordon Campbell,
The list of all the participants, from several generations, is below, but it is impossible not to mention the contribution of the guitarist mike walkerand the photo above of Robert Crowley kind of captures his role as a provocateur, suddenly taking the band to a different place.
Perhaps the most lasting impression of the last gig on Sunday night is that the right people were there to play it. Concerts should always have the sense of a very special occasion; this one did.
Wild Oak – for Geri Allen (solo: Andy Schofield)
Gray as the morning – (for Steve Gray) (soloists: Gareth Lockrane, Paul Jones, Olli Martin
Hush: soloists Tori Freestone, Mike Walker)
Face to Face (for Henry Lowther / soloist)
Heroes of a Thousand Faces (Vince Mendoza) (solos: Mike Walker, Julian Siegel)
Red Ellen (solo: Nick Smart)
The Caged Bird (Solos Andy Schofield, Karen Sharp)
(Solos: Andy Schofield, Nikki Iles)
Flatland (solo: Gordon Campbell)
Awakenings (solos: James Copus (Blugle), Harry Maund
Do it again (Fagen/Becker, arr. Fred Sturm) (solo Gareth Lockrane, Mike Walker, Julian Siegel)
Again: Highlands (solos: James Copus, Harry Maund)
Nikki Iles (piano/composition), Steve Watts (bass), Ian Thomas (drums), Mike Walker (guitar)
Harry Maund, Olli Martin, Gordon Campbell, Richard Henry
Henry Lowther, Tom Walsh (leader), James Copus, Nick Smart
Wind/Reeds: Gareth Lockrane, Andy Schofield, Paul Jones, Julian Siegel, Tori Freestone, Karen Sharp
Sound: Paul Sparrow
LINKS: Review of the first concert of the Nikki Iles Jazz Orchestra in 2018
Review of the LJF 2021
Overview/Profile by John Fordham