The New Jazz Orchestra ‎– “Western Reunion London 1965”

Neil Ardley, Ian Carr, Barbara Thompson, and John Hiseman star in this 1965 British jazz classic.

The NJO was one of those inescapable big-band organizations (originally founded as the Clive Burrows Orchestra) in the mid-60s London scene when practically everyone who was somebody on the scene or almost transited through the group, which was generally the instrument for songwriter Neil Ardley.

The WR album has fantastic names like Ian Carr (of RCQ and Nucleus fame), Barb Thompson, Tony Reeves, John Hiseman (all three of future Colosseum renown), Trevor Watts (future Amalgam), and a slew of less famous but no less talented performers like Paul Rutherford, among others. The list would change to include many additional well-known names.

The New Jazz Orchestra was founded in December 1963, and its title represented both the youthfulness of its members—their age range was only 23—and their purpose to present the unique type of orchestral jazz that was blossoming in America but was still being heard in Britain at the time.

Non-jazz instruments such as trumpets, horns, and bass were added to the conventional brass, saxophones, and rhythm section of the big band. This is the NJO’s debut album, which was recorded in March 1965 in front of an invited audience to put the new band at ease.

The NJO grew out of the “Jazzhouse,” a perfect weekend jazz club based at the Green Man, Blackheath (gutted to make way for Allison Close), where the “house” band was the Ian Bird Quintet (originally consisting of Ian Bird, tenor sax; Clive Burrows, baritone sax; Johnny Mealing, piano; Tony Reeves, bass; and Trevor Tomkins, drums). Paul Raymond and Jon Hiseman took over for Mealing and Tomkins, who left to join the newly established Rendell-Carr Quintet.

Many London-based jazz musicians performed in the ensemble, including Harry Beckett, Jack Bruce, Ian Carr, Dave Gelly, Michael Gibbs, Don Rendell, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jon Hiseman, Henry Lowther, Frank Ricotti, Paul Rutherford, Barbara Thompson, Trevor Tomkins, Michael Phillipson, Les Carter, Tom Harris, Trevor Watts, and Lionel Grigson. Pieces and arrangements were supplied by Ardley, Gibbs, Carter, Rutherford, Michael Garrick, and composer Mike Taylor.

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