Neil Ardley

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe (1968), 5.5/10
The Greek Variations (1969), 6/10
A Symphony of Amaranths (1971), 7/10
Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (1976), 7.5/10
Harmony of the Spheres (1978), 5.5/10
Virtual Realities (1991), 5.5/10

Neil Ardley (1937) was probably the British composer/arranger who was closer to the tradition of Duke Ellington and Gil Evans. The New Jazz Orchestra, a big band originally founded by baritone saxophonist Clive Burrows in december 1963 and then reformed and directed by Ardley, at the time a budding pianist, after Burrows left to join Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, was first documented on Western Reunion London 1965 (march 1965), an album of covers but also containing Ardley's first composition: Shades of Blue. The line-up included Barbara Thompson (alto sax), Trevor Watts (alto sax), Les Carter (flute), Tony Reeves (bass), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Jon Hiseman (drums), Ian Carr (trumpet and flugelhorn), Dick Hart (tuba), and others on saxophones, piano, trombones, trumpets and French horn. Their second album, Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe (september 1968), with a line-up boasting four trumpets (including Ian Carr), four trombones (including Michael Gibbs), four reeds (including Dick Heckstall-Smith), tuba, vibraphone, bass (Jack Bruce) and drums (Jon Hiseman), contains Ardley's Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe and several more covers. Bruce would go on to form Cream, Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman would go on to form Colosseum, and Carr would go on to form Nucleus. Carr introduced Ardley to the jazz critic Denis Preston who encouraged Ardley to compose longer compositions for larger ensembles.

Ardley's main legacy was the great "chromatic" trilogy: The Greek Variations (october 1969) for a nine-piece jazz ensemble plus string quintet (including Carr, Gibbs, Bruce, drummer John Marshall, oboe and English horn player Karl Jenkins), the four movement A Symphony of Amaranths for a large orchestra and jazz quartet (Dick Heckstall-Smith on woodwinds, Karl Jenkins on electric piano, Ardley himself on prepared piano, plus piano, harp, celeste, viola, cellos, violins, vibraphone, harpsichord, oboe, bassoon, glockenspiel, trumpets, trombones, saxes, tuba, bass, drums), his most spectacular experiment with mixing composition and improvisation, contained in A Symphony of Amaranths (june 1971, and not 1967 as often erroneously mentioned), and Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (march 1976), based on Balinese scales and scored for a smaller ensemble (including Ian Carr on trumpet, Tony Coe on sax, Paul Buckmaster on cello, Dave McRae on electric piano). Live ’75 (october 1975) documents the premiere of this work. Ardley mixed acoustic and electronic instruments (besides voices) on Harmony of the Spheres (september 1978), featuring John Martyn on guitar, Ardley on synthesizer and a jazz septet (including Tony Coe and Ian Carr). This experiment led to the "live electronic jazz orchestra" of Virtual Realities (july 1991), actually a quartet with Ardley and John Walters on electronic keyboards, Carr on trumpet and a guitarist.

The New Jazz Orchestra is also documented on On The Radio-BBC Sessions 1971 (february and september 1971) that contains a 29-minute version of Ardley's The Time Flowers.

Ardley died in 2004.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Magnano)

Neil Ardley è stato probabilmente il compositore inglese più vicino alla tradizione di Duke Ellington e Gil Evans. La sua New Jazz Orchestra, il cui debutto risale al 1965, registrò le sue prime composizioni in Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe (settembre 1968); l'orchestra vantava di quattro trombe (tra cui Ian Carr), quattro tromboni (tra cui Jack Bruce), quattro ance (tra cui Dick Heckstall-Smith),  tuba, vibrafono, basso (Jack Bruce) e batteria (Jon Hiseman). I più grandi lasciti artistici di Ardley sono: la trilogia “cromatica” The Greek Variations (ottobre 1969), composta per ensemble jazz di nove elementi e quintetto d'archi (in cui figurano Carr, Gibbs, Bruce, il batterista John Marshall, e Karl Jenkins all'oboe e al corno inglese); A Symphony of Amaranths, in quattro movimenti, per orchestra e quartetto jazz (Dick Heckstall-Smith ai legni, Karl Jenkins al piano elettrrico, Ardley stesso al piano preparato, e poi piano, arpa, celesta, viola, violoncelli, violini, vibrafono, clavicembalo, oboe, fagotto, glockenspiel, trombe, tromboni, sax, tuba, basso, batteria), il suo esperimento più spettacolare nel miscelare composizione e improvvisazione, contenuto in A Symphony of Amaranths (giugno 1971, e non 1967 come spesso erroneamente si legge);

Ian Carr presentò Ardley al critico jazz Denis Preston dopo “Le Dejuner Sur l'Herbe”, ossia dopo il 1968. Fu Prescott a incoraggiare Ardley a tentare composizioni più lunghe e per ensemble di maggiori dimensioni.

E Kaleidoscope of Rainbows (marzo 1976), basato su scale balinesi (con Ian Carr alla tromba, Tony Coe al sax, Paul Buckmaster al violoncello, Dave McRae al piano elettrico). Ardley impiegò insieme strumenti acustici ed elettronici (oltre alle voci) in Harmony of the Spheres (settembre 1978), con John Martyn alla chitarra, Ardley al sintetizzatore, e un settetto jazz (con Tony Coe e Ian Carr). Questo esperimento portò alla fondazione della "live electronic jazz orchestra" di Virtual Realities (luglio 1991), di fatto un quartetto con Ardley e John Walters alle tastiere elettroniche, Carr alla tromba, e un chitarrista.

Neil Ardley è morto nel 2004.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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