Reissued for the first time, The New Jazz Orchestra’s 1968 release ‘Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe’ features key players in modern British jazz including Henry Lowther, Ian Carr, Michael Gibbs, Derek Wadsworth, Barbara Thompson, Dave Gelly, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Frank Ricotti, Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman, under the directorship of Neil Ardley. ‘Nardis’ features solos by Ian Carr on flugelhorn, George Smith on tuba and – rarely heard – Jack Bruce on acoustic bass. Complementing this is what might be considered the best big band version of Coltrane’s ‘Naïma’ ever heard. ‘Angle’ by Howard Riley demonstrates how receptive this collection of musicians was to new music and in particular free jazz. ‘Ballad’ by Mike Taylor features a tenor solo by Dave Gelly and is a typically exquisite Taylor piece.. Michael Garrick’s ‘Dusk Fire’ is given such a fantastic overhaul that it almost steals the show. ‘Study’ by Alexandre Tansman, benefits from an arrangement by Mike Taylor with Barbara Thompson and Henry Lowther soloing on soprano and trumpet respectively. ‘Rebirth’ is a quintessential Mike Gibbs number and features solos by John Mumford on trombone and Frank Ricotti on marimba and vibes.
And that title track: a major departure in jazz being a complete composition, based on one, long continuous melody, with no repeated passages, letting the solos and interludes between them develop, and indeed exhaust, the musical implication of the main theme. A masterpiece.
“A momentous album … a unified voice that pretty much sums up practically everything that a jazz orchestra requires.” Jazz Journal
“A masterly piece of work …” Gramophone
“… a really superb and inventive album” Melody Maker