John Dankworth Orchestra: Live at Newport 1959 | CD review

(Harkit)

British jazz bands hardly ever played in the US in the 1950s, and certainly not at that world-famous showcase, the Newport festival. But the late John Dankworth's orchestra was making big enough waves by the end of that decade to get invited over, and this is the band's tight and hard-swinging set from 3 July 1959, prefaced by Voice of America's Willis Conover announcing its arrival as if delivering a sermon from a pulpit. The liner notes indicate that the band was nervous, and the solos do often sound hesitant and fragmentary compared to the quality of the improvising on the studio soundtrack (to the Joseph Losey movie The Criminal) that also features on the set. But the overriding impression is of just how good Dankworth's ensemble writing was – a mix of hard-slammed big band riffing and richly layered Ellingtonesque colouration that nourishes a constant sense of anticipation. The band rapidly works up some heat on the bluesy Firth of Fourths; Don't Get Around Much Anymore represents Dankworth's harmonic sense at its most acute; and by Doggin' Around and Take the A Train the band is exuberantly at ease. A UK jazz milestone.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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