DYJO Ambassadors are go!

Today saw this season’s group of Ambassadors deliver their first workshop to primary-age children at Rydon School in Kingsteignton.

After a quick rehearsal, the band was ready to wow Year 5 with Beastly, C Jam Blues, and Blue Bossa, but first the children wowed DYJO with their impressive knowledge of jazz! Then, having given the children a taste of great music, it was down to the serious (but still fun!) business of teaching them to play.

Year 5 had been learning trumpet, cornet, or tuba for only a few weeks, but they quickly learned to identify funk, swing, and Latin rhythms, and by the end of the workshop were playing along with the Ambassadors – and dancing too!

Well done to all of today’s Ambassadors for playing brilliantly, and for working so skilfully with their young audience – for many of them, it was their first experience of taking part in a workshop with children.

And a big thank you to Rydon Primary for their warm welcome, and for giving us the opportunity to work with such a well-behaved, and enthusiastic group of children.

Our new Ambassadors’ manager, Ben, has fond memories of going into school as one of the Ambassadors himself, and it was fantastic to see him continuing to spread the message of how much fun learning and playing jazz can be!

And if you’d like to hear the Ambassadors, they have their first gig of the season in Totnes on Saturday 18th March.

Exciting offers!

It’s that time of year when students in their last year of school start to receive offers for their further eduction, and we’re delighted to hear that, yet again, DYJO players have received great offers to further their musical studies! Robyn (sax) is set to study Music at Birmingham University, Emma (sax) Pop or Jazz at Leeds College of Music, Matt (bass) Jazz at Birmingham Conservatoire, and Joe (trombone) Jazz at Trinity Laban or Birmingham Conservatoire.

We are, of course, thoroughly delighted to celebrate their successes, and wish them well for their futures! In the meantime, they’ve got a busy programme of gigs with DYJO to play, and the little matter of a tour to the jazz festivals of Vienne and Montreux in the summer…


Matt Carter accepted into the Royal Academy of Music!


Just before Christmas, DYJO’s very own rhythm section tutor, Matt Carter, announced that he’d gained a place to study on the BMus Jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music starting next September! It’s incredibly hard to gain a place there: each year there is just one pianist selected for the course, so Matt will not only be surrounded by the absolutely best young jazz musicians you can imagine, but he’ll be receiving tutoring from the country’s top jazz musicians and teachers.

Already a skilled pianist, Matt started in DYJO2 with me what feels like an age ago, and soon progressed to DYJO1, playing both piano and trumpet. In 2011, while in DYJO, he travelled to London to play at the Will Michael Jazz Education Awards, at which Devon was awarded a Diploma of Special Merit: that year the awards were presented at the Royal Academy of Music, and Matt played a solo set on one of their Steinways to the great and the good who were assembled, later hearing a performance from some of the undergraduates.

After leaving DYJO and college, with his superb keyboard skills, Matt quickly picked up a lot of regular gigs and started a busy life as a working musician, and this year we’ve been delighted to welcome him on board the DYJO tutor team to share his skills with the next generation of jazz musicians. But like any great musician, Matt is on a constant quest to learn more. Over to Matt:

“I decided to apply again to study at the Royal Academy to try and take the next step to develop myself as a musician. I have been extremely fortunate to have had a lot of performance opportunities whilst living in Exeter, but I have always wondered what would happen if I pushed myself to try and make the move to living in London. Moving with no real opportunities already organised would be difficult, so I decided I may as well apply to The Academy. That way I would automatically be linked up with a pool of musicians and studying there, not to mention the great teachers and the degree at the end of it! I am excited by the prospect of studying with an ensemble of talented musicians that all have similar goals with music that I have. I will be moving there but I still intend to keep connections with the South West by regularly coming back to gig, as well as continuing to be a tutor with DYJO!

The Royal Academy has always appealed to me, as they only take on a small number of musicians per year. I will be the only piano player in my year, and there are only generally one of each instrument commonly found in a big band. That means there will be a lot of time to get to know all of the other students, socially as well as musically, and to develop our musicianship together. The course is four years long, and in that time I hope to get stuck into the music scene in London as well as developing my own personal style.”

It’s incredibly exciting for us at DYJO to look forward to how Matt’s playing will develop with his intensive exposure to absolutely the best jazz education in the country – though I dare say that our excitement is a mere fraction of the excitement that Matt is feeling right now!

Challenging repertoire

Whether I’ve got my big band or classical hat on, I like to stretch audiences’ experiences. Like anyone else, I enjoy hearing things that I like, and just bring a smile to my face: such is my love for Count Basie’s music. (Even then, there’s the fun of exploring his less well-known charts.)

But equally important is putting music in front of both the players and the audience that is not only new to them, but sometimes not an easy play, or easy listen, but music that will reward getting to know it. (Of course, we mustn’t forget that for many of our players and audiences DYJO will be their first experience of live big band jazz -an important part of our raison d’ĂȘtre.)

Graham Hutton is very good with keeping his ear to the ground for more contemporary charts for DYJO1, and though I am somewhat less ambitious with the younger players in DYJO2, they demonstrate how quick they are to learn when I do challenge them. 

The evidence was there this Saturday: I decided to see how they got on with Thad Jones’ Central Park North. Actually dating from the late 1960s, this mini suite is a snapshot in sound of the hustle and bustle of New York, and the respite of Central Park. It’s certainly fun to play, and, we hope, a good listen. DYJO2 are using a skillfully slightly simplified version by Mike Carubia. Do have a listen to the original version in the link below. Incidentally, I spent a day in Munich with the lead trumpet featured in this recording, Al Porcino. A real character, he played lead for nearly all the great bands from the 1940s till the 1980s, and was Sinatra’s lead player for ten years. He was one of the greats, for sure – if there were one person I would like to sound like, it would be him.

Central Park North video

NYJC videos featuring DYJO players…

You might recall that we had no less than five DYJO players gain places to and attend the National Youth Jazz Collective Summer School this year (and supported by DYJO funding). It’s certainly to DYJO’s collective benefit that our young players are taking even more time out to enhance their jazz skills with some of the top musicians in the country, as they can then inspire everyone else in DYJO (including us tutors!) with their playing.

The application and audition process for next year’s summer school will be starting soon, so as an encouragement for all young aspiring jazz musicians to participate in the process, here are two videos featuring Kai Craig and Will Pearce:

NYJC Summer School 2016 Cleveland Watkiss and Gareth Lockrane’s Group

NYJC Summer School 2016 Laura Jurd and Mark Mondesir’s Group

Do keep an eye out here for the announcements for the 2017 Summer School!


Teignmouth triumph!

We had a fabulous night at Teignmouth last night! In true jazz fashion we were kept on our toes, as our special guest soloist, Paul Towndrow, travelling down from Glasgow, arrived just before the gig after a nightmare journey. You’d never have guessed it though, as he blew the audience away as soon as he launched into his first solo with DYJO2 in Almost The Blues: I could see the players in DYJO2 listen in amazement at the stream of notes pouring from Paul’s alto sax. Of course as well as Paul’s solos, there were many superb solos from the band members too, who will no doubt have been inspired by Paul’s playing.

After the interval, DYJO1 delivered a strong and varied set, again with great solos from around the band, and four feature numbers from Paul, including the lovely Crystal Silence. The set had started with the perennial favourite Manteca, included A Night in Tunisia, a great arrangement of Wonderwall (sung by Will Pearce), and ended with the delightfully off-the-wall Bjork arrangement of It’s Oh So Quiet sung by Vicky Lannin.

One special note must go to the venue, the new Pavilions theatre. After so many years in the old Carlton, despite fondness for the old place, it was an absolute delight to play in this gleaming new addition to Teignmouth: it both looks and sounds terrific. We hope we’ll be able to enjoy as many appearances in the Pavilions, as part of the Teignmouth Jazz Festival, as we did in the old Carlton!

Thanks are due to the theatre, the Festival, the players (and their parents!), as well as (especially) a very large and enthusiastic audience: it wouldn’t be the same without you!

DYJO at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival!

This Friday will mark DYJO’s annual show at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival, with special guest soloist Paul Towndrow. As usual, the two bands will present a wide range of great music, from the earliest swing (tunes such as Begin the Beguine, in the arrangement made famous by Artie Shaw) to the most up-to-date funk (such as a really cool arrangement of the classic Gershwin I Got Rhythm).

And, very excitingly, we will be at the fabulous new Pavilions Theatre, which replaced the dear old Carlton Theatre. It’s going to be a bit strange to know that we’re in the same location as the old theatre was – maybe some of the old vibes are still there!

If you’d like to come to hear us, tickets are available from the Pavilions Teignmouth. The show kicks off at 8pm.