New Jazz Orchestra: Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (1968) Verve (2021)

Selection: Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (Ardley)

.  .  .

Tracklist    [Total time 44.19]

Side 1
1. Le Dejeuner Sur L’herbe (Neil Ardley) 7:42
2. Naima (John Coltrane arr Alan Cohen) 4:41
3. Angle (Howard Riley) 5:02
4. Ballad (Mike Taylor) 5:23
Side 2
1. Dusk Fire (Michael Garrick) 5:31
2. Nardis (Miles Davis arr. Neil Ardley) 5:03
3. Study  (Tansman arr. Mike Taylor) 6:33
4. Rebirth (Michael Gibbs) 4:53

Artists
Neil Ardley, Musical Director; Jack Bruce, bass; Jon Hiseman, drums; Dave Gelly, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jim Philip, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Dick Heckstall-Smith, tenor sax, soprano sax; Barbara Thompson, tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Derek Wadsworth, John Mumford, Michael Gibbs, Tony Russell, trombone; Derek Watkins, Harry Beckett, Henry Lowther, trumpet; Ian Carr, trumpet, flugelhorn; George Smith, tuba; Frank Ricotti, vibraphone, marimba; Howard Barrow, recording engineer; Grahame Dudley, design; Tony Reeves, producer; recorded September 17 & 18, 1968.

Jack Bruce, bass, shortly after break-up of Cream, dabbling briefly in jazz.

Howard Barrow: mastering and lacquer cutting engineer at Pye Studios, Marble Arch, London. NJO’s previous LP, “Western Reunion, London 1965”, was recorded for Decca at Decca Studios West Hampstead, engineer Arthur Bannister. MGM was approached to record and issue this second NJO LP. Where Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe was recorded is not named, presumably Pye Studios, not known to me.

Cover Art

Edouard Manet scandalised the Paris art-establishment with his controversial painting  Lunch on the Grass (1863), juxtaposing a group of clothed and unclothed figures having a picnic in the woods. It was not the nude female form that shocked, it was the well-dressed professional men in their presence. The idealized female form had been a convention of classical art for centuries. Nudity was acceptable in “classical art”, but not in “the real world”, which is where Manet artfully pitches it. This is the clash.  It is indeed an unusual picture in its own right, but also a jolly vehicle as a record cover spoof, a good inside joke.

Below left shows Neil Ardley (left) and John Hiseman (right), with two  “friends”. The subjects have been posed on location, to  ensure consistent lighting and  a convincing  blend with the forest floor. Great idea, well executed.Of academic interest, the people Manet used to pose for the painting were close family relatives and two artists models.

Music – Critical reception:

Several good writers have done the heavy lifting, so on this occasion I’ll put my feet up.

Abridged from Dutch distributor https://www.painteddogrecords.com/njo.html

” Among the most forward thinking and distinctive of all the British big bands of the mid to late-60s was the New Jazz Orchestra (NJO) under the direction of Neil Ardley. 
The NJO was active for less than ten years and recorded only two albums, one of which, their second, Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (Verve SVLP 9236, 1969), is regarded by some as one of the finest British jazz album of the period.

The New Jazz Orchestra assembled by Neil Ardley into a distinctively voiced ensemble, whilst acknowledging the debt to Duke Ellington and Gil Evans, expressed an English sensibility that can be best described as ‘pastoral’, distinctively drawing on the classical idiom. The combination of classical orchestration and jazz made it more than a third-stream experiment.

The range, invention and depth  outstrips most large ensemble jazz albums of the time; at  times muscular and powerful, at others delicate and sensitive, the interplay of the musicians, arrangements and compositions make for a stand-out recording that bristles with confidence and energy.”

Duncan Heining – All About Jazz: (abridged):

Déjeuner is one of the finest British jazz records of any period. The two nods in the direction of the masters – Davis’ “Nardis,”” arranged by Ardley, and Coltrane’s “Naïma,” arranged by Alan Cohen—are recast quite beautifully. The title track is a minor masterpiece of form, deceptively easy on the ear but utilizing a number of different scales. Ardley’s harmonic sense allows this exercise in polytonality to unfold in its own time and, while it sounds exotic in its use of modes, it never seems odd or discordant. The tune actually comes from a secondary part in a Debussy prelude. Throughout, the playing is magnificent.  Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe  defines a unique period in British jazz.”

LJC says: Nothing stands still, and jazz is no exception. (Having written that, there are some genres that do seem to stand still, where fans just want more of the same. Discuss)

On the heels of America’s post-bop, latin-jazz, soul-jazz, jazz-rock fusion hybrids, Britain took a stand on the unusual territory of its European classical music heritage : jazz-classical fusion.

The instruments remained firmly of the jazz tradition, not of the classical wind and string orchestra. The line-up expanded from quartet and sextet, or even nonet, well into double figures.  To handle this palette of tonal colours, like classical music, it is largely composed and arranged, not improvised, except under controlled conditions. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is not a springboard for a tympany solo, ( during which the audience retire to the bar). It’s merit rests on the strength of the composer/ arranger, and Neil Ardley is good, with interesting measures of melody, harmony, rhythm, and  good ideas, varying pace and texture. In this respect, the cast-list of musicians is not especially relevant, other than the tone and interpretation they bring to their part of the composed piece. I think I can pinpoint Ian Carr’s flugelhorn. 

The setting for such a large musical enterprise is inevitably the concert hall, and the recording studio, not the smoky jazz-dive bar, pub bandstand, or even the music festival. The economics is shaky, the logistics worse, and it was inevitable that it would not last (without the help of Arts Council grants).   So the take-away here is a brief British Spring of Jazz/Classical fusion, of enduring quality, for those willing to explore. Ironically, LondonJazzCollector is a new-comer to this music himself, a stranger in my own land.

Vinyl:

Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe was released originally on the Verve label. Verve was a marque of MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.), who acquired it from Norman Grantz in 1960.  MGM established its British subsidiary MGM Records Ltd in 1967. Manufacture and distribution of MGM/ Verve in the UK was in the hands of The Gramaphone Co. Ltd. a subsidiary of EMI, so likely pressed by EMI Hayes, Middx, in 1969.

Verve is now under the Decca family banner at  Universal (UMG), who have produced this 2021 reissue. It follows the now familiar pattern of 2020+ modern audiophile editions – high quality engineering from original tapes, pressed in Germany, klingt gut, sounds great™

UMG Reissue Labels, true to the original Verve identity

Collector’s Corner

1969 original release on Verve, mono and stereo, identical cover,  MGM Verve trademark under license, “SUBJECT TO RESALE PRICE CONDITIONS” text on the label. Rare as hen’s teeth. Original 1969 copies on sale from £175 (VG with clicks) to £400 for near-mint. Because the first edition is rare and of historical interest, some will prefer the original artefact.

First Edition Labels

 

 The title was reissued in 2015 on CD and vinyl, which LP now found more moderately priced at  £32-£60, due to the latest Decca/Verve remastered edition (2021), being priced around £30. 

Contemporary critical reviews (1968) 

 

UMG make available Youtubes of the tracks, comments closed. I guess a good thing as people will otherwise upload unofficial copies. The audio quality is nothing close to my one-track rip, but you get a feel for what else is on the album. It’s a breath of fifty-year old fresh air. 

 

 

More Neil Ardley 

Neil Ardley and NJO, circa 1966.

BBC Radio Sessions – Neil Ardley and The New Jazz Orchestra,  broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s “Jazz Club” on Monday 15 February 1971. Introduced by Humphrey Lyttleton, opens with a very familiar tune – George Russell’s Stratus Phunk.

Neil Ardley albums

Greek Variations and A Symphony of Aramanths, early 70’s, very much sought after, rare and expensive; Kaleidoscope of Rainbows and Harmony of the Spheres, mid to late 70s orchestral jazz-rock, not so much. 

The Jazz In Britain preservation label has issued a live session recording of Kaleidoscope of Rainbows from 1975, at Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London,  a setting I attended many times, though not this one.  Barbara Thompson I chatted to at a Barbican pop-up with Paraphernalia, John Hiseman behind the drums, who was riveting. Trevor Tomkins I saw several times in recent years with Simon Spillett Quartet.  


I dug out my original copy of Kaleidoscope of Rainbows, on the Gull label, slipped it on the turntable to refresh my recollections. I confess I had to take it off quickly. It was a child of its time, but it hasn’t worn well (to my ears, YMMV) . Mind you, some would say that of me. 

LJC

 

12 thoughts on “New Jazz Orchestra: Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (1968) Verve (2021)

  1. Thanks got the write-up
    I’m a newbie to Brit-jazz but have enjoyed listening to the samples on offer here, so will be queuing this one up for purchase (the reissue that is, not an original!) as soon as pay day arrives on the 28th, alongside Space Walk and Shades of Blue reissues, also heard/read about here!
    Top notch site
    Thanks again!

  2. Jack Bruce; The Things We Like, Mike Taylor Trio, New Jazz Orchestra, Neil Ardley’s Greek Variations, Mike Gibbs 1969 LP. Beats the Cream discography?

    • Thank you for reminding me of Jack Bruce, because I knew I had copy of his debut album on my shelf, Songs For A Tailor (Polydor, 1969), forgotten and unplayed for decades. I’m shocked by the line up – Harry Becket, Henry Lowther, Dick Heckstall-, Smith, Art Themen, Jon Hiseman, John Marshall, Chris Spedding, opening track, the immortal words, “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune”.

      This needs a spin on the turntable tonight.

    • Also The Graham Bond Organization

      Heckstel Smith plays aggressive post bop sounding tenor lines over Bruce and Bakers Brilliant rhythm section.Bond drives the whole thing with vocals, Hammond Organ and alto Amazingly there are passages we’re he plays the organ and the alto symoultaneously!

      Great band or rather “ beat combo “ Bond and Heckstel Smith probably didn’t have the photogenic image for marketing as pop stars ,at the time but the music speaks for itself

  3. Would like to wish you happy holidays and hope you are somewhere safe and warm. Referring to the NJO I had the pleasure of dancing to Gelly and his small group at Cambridge which he ran with Art Themen. Dick Heckstall-Smith used to visit my coffee bar off the Market Square on his wednesday visits to jam at Millers Upstairs. I met Ian Carr and his brother Mike in The Cape in the late sixties when they came out for warmer weather. Long ago days but happy memories, Cheers and a Happy New Year.

    • Definitely an impressive lineup and great album. I’ll put on The Things We Like, recorded in 1968 before Cream’s demise yet not released until 1970. I don’t think the manager was impressed, probably expecting more power trio stuff, not jazz. Perhaps he took the wrong path?…who knows.

  4. I’ve been playing this with increasing enjoyment since buying the UMG reissue a few weeks ago. I played side 1 just yesterday evening, in fact. The instrumentation, arrangements, orchestration, improvising — all magnificent. At the moment, however, it is probably all of the shorter tracks rather than the title track that are really making me sit up and listen. Excellent inner liner notes by Tony Higgins.

  5. Seeing as Mike Taylor is listed on side one as a composer of one song, has anyone who has an original of “Trio” heard the newish “grey market” release? I have this but don’t want to pay $2000.00 for an original. Would love to just hear it and, of course, compare. I’ve had the chance to hear the reissue once since acquiring it and doesn’t sound too digital!

    • A Russian grey issue vinyl pressed in Czech republic? Digital transfer, you might as well buy the CD.

      Trio may come out at some future date from the Decca reissue programme, but Decca are painfully slow, little has come out in the last six months.. In the mean time there is a Mike Taylor album out on Jazz in Britain- Mandala – quartet line up

      https://jazzinbritain.co.uk/album/mandala

      Its a live recording made by John Hiseman, in a Southend studio .Quality unknown.

  6. Well organized review of this lp. All the information that one needs to know to answer questions regarding this release. Thank you for your emails!

  7. When I first saw this post I thought it was going to be a review of Bow Wow Wow’s “See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! ” but this one is new to me.

  8. Thank you – a nice piece on one of my favourite jazz records of all time. I have an original mono copy which once belonged to Miles Kington (bought at auction): it cleaned up well, but was noisy in certain segments so it was nice to get a new copy, albeit in Stereo (I have the Dusk Fire CD too). The original mono sounds more ‘direct’ and is my go-to version, but the new Decca pressing is fine – and quiet.

    I disagree with you regarding Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: it’s my personal favourite of all Ardley’s output. The 2 x 45 pressing of a few years ago is splendid.

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