The EYJO was developed in 1998 by the Danish organization, "Swinging Europe." In collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union, they choose a new line-up, conductor and composers each year for a three-week international tour involving education, understanding and performance. The 2006 CD was recorded in Glasgow and conducted by Barry Forgie, who has led the BBC Big Band since 1977 - before most of his players first saw light. Forgie wrote six of the tunes and arranged all of the charts.
This band really swings! The hard-driving boppish opener, Alan Ganley's "Home and Dry," demonstrates tight section work and strong solos from the rhythm section. Thad Jones rules on "Thaddeus Rex," a Forgie blues, as the band proves it can also play with Basie's light and lively touch. Another Basie arranger, Billy Byers, is honored with "Byers," featuring interplay between brass and reeds. "Slaying the Hippopotamus" is written in 5/8 time (sound out that title!) and the orchestra is to be congratulated for their relaxed treatment of this complex arrangement.
Four of the EYJO's great soloists are recognized with showcase charts. Pianist Biala is featured on John Horler's lovely "Waltz." Lead trumpeter Alex Schlosser plays flugelhorn on his original ballad, "Touching the Moon," while Viola Falb displays her talents on "Alto Fresco." And let's not forget the drummer. The fiery closer," Sing a Samba for Krupa," highlights Jaska Lukkarinen and allusions to "Sing, Sing, Sing," in a time-traveling Forgie arrangement that transports Krupa to the 21st century.
Forgie is Scottish-born and his "Wry Smiles" is the high point of the CD. The intro is traditional with bagpipes and "Coming Through the Rye." That auld tune is then taken over the banks and braes in all directions, and back to the melody. You may think that's the ending. I did. It isn't. The finale is an inspired burst of free jazz.
The mission continues. In May 2007, 18 young international musicians rehearsed for four days under Danish bandleader/composer Lars Moller, and then toured Germany, Sweden, China and back to Denmark. They plan a CD. I hope it's as exciting and well-played as The European Youth Jazz Orchestra 2006.