Congratulations to Kai Craig!

Great news from DYJO alumnus drummer Kai Craig – he’s been offered scholarships to both Guildhall and the Royal Academy of Music! Kai’s been putting in serious work since he left DYJO, and to get offers from both of these prestigious London conservatoires is a fantastic reward for that work. The Royal Academy of Music Jazz course is particularly hard to get into, as each year there is just one place awarded, so we are all incredibly proud of Kai. And of course, our very own Matt Carter is already there, studying piano!

I’m sure we all wish Kai the very best of luck for his preparations for next September, and the next exciting chapter in his drumming life!


DYJO2 goes back to 1970…

Most people who know me will also know that I have a bit of a thing about Count Basie’s music – not least because there is no-one who has ever had a band who swung like Basie’s. And for me, swing’s the thing.

Well, one member of Basie’s band in the 1950s was the great trumpeter Thad Jones, who also turned his hand to arranging for the band. Later on he formed his own band, with the drummer Mel Lewis, and like Basie, groove was at the heart of his style. But he also employed a very rich harmonic style, and put in angular melodic lines that would not have been Basie’s bag.

The Thad Jones Mel Lewis Big Band really flourished in the late 60s and early 70s, and turned out classic albums such as Consummation, from 1970. One of the charts from that album is ‘Ahunk Ahunk’, and today DYJO2 started to get to grips with this classic in 5/4 (the same time signature as the more famous ‘Take Five’).

We’re not quite ready to record it just yet, but in the meantime, do have a listen to the original:

And now: the new DYJO Ambassadors!

Our DYJO Ambassadors are a vital part of our set-up – not only do they extend their jazz skills in the setting of a small-band ensemble (no written-out charts, and even greater emphasis on aural and soloing skills), but, as the name implies, they are the group which takes the word about jazz out into the wider educational community.

Later in the season the focus will be on this ‘outreach’ into Devon schools, but Sunday’s first session was all about gelling as a band, and learning some great jazz under the expert guidance of DYJO alumnus (and guitarist) Ben Lee. I couldn’t be there this time to see the fun, but Nic and Maria were!

From Nic:

The new season’s Ambassadors got off to a great start at today’s first rehearsal. After warming up with some work on chords and modes (all helpfully written down on a piece of paper several metres long!), the group went on to rehearse standards such as Scrapple from the Apple, alongside a brand new piece composed by Harry.

But perhaps the most fun was had just after lunch, when Ben used drinking straws and scissors to demonstrate how altering the length of a pipe can change the pitch of the note produced. Although the Ambassadors are some of our older players, their reaction to Ben’s demonstration wasn’t very different from how their audiences in Devon’s Primary Schools might be expected to respond!

Photos from Maria


Teignmouth 2017 – done!

So, tonight was the night: the first public gig of the two new DYJO bands, at the ever-splendid Teignmouth Jazz Festival. Each year the festival treats us to a wonderful guest soloist, and tonight Dave O’Higgins was as superb to play with as he was the last time, several years ago in the old Carlton Theatre. He makes his tenor sax take on so many different characters, at once caressing our ears with a wonderfully inventive Willow Weep for Me (with DYJO2) or amazing us with his creativity with charts such as Sweet Georgia Brown (with DYJO1).

Of course, the other stars of the evening are the two bands: a DYJO1 augmented by new players moving up from last year’s DYJO2, and a DYJO2 roughly half of which are new members this year. Both bands excelled themselves in front of a packed house, and with a programme ranging from Basie to Don Ellis and beyond, I don’t think anyone will be doubting that it’s going to be another great season for DYJO, and for youth jazz in Devon: the future’s looking bright!

And of course, our thanks to Dave, the Pavilion Theatre, and Teignmouth Jazz Festival for making this all possible. If you’re reading this while the weekend is still going (17-19 November), you might like to pop down and catch some more jazz. If you’re too late for this year, see you in 2018!

DYJO & Dave O’Higgins at Teignmouth

One of the principal focuses of our Heatree Residential is preparing the music for our annual appearance at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival. Each year the festival opens with DYJO and a nationally renowned jazz musician, and this year we have the pleasure of working again with the amazing Dave O’ Higgins on Friday 17 November, at the Pavilions Teignmouth.

We last worked together in Teignmouth several years ago, and Graham, I, and the bands were treated to a masterful display of his many voices on his tenor sax. I’m sure that the Mr Cool of the tenor will once again delight us and the audience!

Tickets are on sale from


DYJO does trad jazz

Well, we’ve come to the third and final day of our 2017 residential, and all we have left is the final giglette. It’s been a fabulous learning journey, with both bands making enormous strides.

As usual, we had a special extra activity, and this year it was trad jazz, in superb sessions led by trombonist Bob Martin. While he was working with two small bands, a large marching band worked with with Graham and Brian putting together a New Orleans funeral procession, for Mr Barry Tone.

It was revelatory stuff, and opened eyes to the origins of jazz. Come to gigs at Teignmouth, and later in the season, and you might well hear a bit of the DYJO Stompers!

We’ve had a wonderful time at Heatree, yet again, thanks to all the staff and its unique location. Someone might also have enjoyed seeing a bit more of the local scenery in his lunchbreaks…

The Learning Thing, 2017

This morning is the time at the residential when we put self-directed learning right at the forefront of the players’ minds. They have a new tune to learn without tutor help, first in instrumental sections, and then in two bands, this year snappily titled ‘Maria’ and ‘Hannah’.

It’s a time-pressured exercise (just 75 minutes), so starts to illustrate the pressures on professional bands. It’s always a testament to the players’ appetite for and skills in learning that they always rise to the challenge!