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On Sunday 6th May, the Highgate jazz ensembles made their annual appearance at the legendary Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho. The show kicked off with an impressive performance from the Junior School band (Tamsin Hoar, Hannah Pheasant, Joe Lever, Max Roxburgh, Tom Williams, Felix Moeran, Finlay Howell, Noah Segal) who rolled out expert renditions of Blues by Five (Miles Davis) and Watermelon Man (Herbie Hancock).

Next on the bill was the Monk Ensemble (Ed Gertler, Glody Gbayere, Ananya Chandramouli, Gabriel Gow, Arav Raja, Daniel Lamb, Owen Pheasant, Sam Ornadel, David Gibber, Elliot Ayliffe, Ari Sheldon). The chosen repertoire for their set was the slow blues ‘Yearnin’ from Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth followed by the smooth grooves of Lee Morgan’s ‘Cornbread’.

The third band to hit the stage was the Coltrane Ensemble (Isabel Ridgwell, Henry Pearce, Sam Ornadel, Will Johnson, Tom Handyside) under the direction of Mr John Turville. They delivered a set which was brimming with class and sophistication and included Horace Silver’s ‘Strollin’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ by Charles Mingus and ‘A Night in Tunisia’ by Dizzy Gillespie.

Finally, the Jazz Orchestra took to the stage under the direction of Mr Andre Canniere. Their set began with an exciting version of the classic Joe Zawinul composition ‘Birdland’ which featured some excellent solo bass work by Aris Sabetai. After the much deserved thunderous applause finally died down, the band seamlessly launched into a slick arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Isfahan’ (from Duke Ellington’s The Far East Suite) which featured some superb sax playing by Helen Footman. After a beautiful performance of Carla Bley’s Lawns, the band took a break to allow vocalists Laura Jennings and Rupert McMinn a chance to shine. Laura wowed the crowd with her versions of Etta James’ ‘At Last’ and Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why I Didn’t Come’, while Rupert sang the Gershwin classic  ‘But Not For Me’ (made famous by Chet Baker). The Jazz Orchestra returned to the stage to play the hip-hop infused ‘Brooklyn’ (Youngblood Brass Band) with excellent solos by Will Mullan, Gabriel Waters and Arielle Lande and a climactic drum and bass battle between Tom Handyside and Aris Sabetai. After saying goodbye to Year 13 pupils Helen Footman, Juliette Grossman, Henry Pearce, Rupert McMinn and Arielle Lande, the band closed out the show with a fiery performance of ‘Caravan’ including a virtuosic drum solo finale (ala Whiplash) by Tom Handyside.

The pupils’ hard work and dedication paid off yet again this year with another successful and packed out performance at the iconic London jazz venue. Well done one and all.


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