There was a moment during NYO Jazz’s Festival debut when its director, trumpeter and educator Sean Jones, left off conducting and took up his trumpet to spar with a young tenor saxophonist amid the sonic crucible of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and we suddenly realised that this teenage big band, newly emerged from New York Carnegie Hall’s inaugural summer jazz programme, was more than capable of responding with real bravura to the uncompromising improvisational challenges of seasoned players.
NYO Jazz, Usher Hall (****)
The 22 youngsters could be bold, even brash, when required, as in an exuberant blues finale, or in a commissioned piece, Miguel Zenón’s Run with Jones, which had the director’s trumpet shrilling over a big band tornado that gave The Flight of the Bumble Bee a run for its money.
In contrast was the young alto saxophonist whose lead floated sublimely over the orchestral glide of the Ellington-Strayhorn classic Isfahan.
The band murmured and chimed impeccably behind guest vocalist Dianne Reeves in Make Someone Happy¸ including sensitive piano and double bass work, and if her skatting in Someday risked being swamped by a beefier accompaniment, Reeves, a warm-hearted, big-voiced presence, clearly relished her youthful company, as did we all.