YAZZ AHMED 10 B&W lo-res copy

Discovering & Celebrating Strong Female Role Models

Nu Civilisation Orchestra Play Yazz Ahmed

Tomorrow’s Warriors premieres a pioneering new work for an all-female ensemble from the Nu Civilisation Orchestra on 8 March at WOW! Women of the World Festival, The Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall. We caught up with rising star, Yazz Ahmed and composer for this new work,

British-Bahrani composer and trumpeter, award-winning Yazz Ahmed has decided to take on a significant writing challenge to create new work about strong female role models – those whose considerable influence changed the course of history, who continue to champion the rights of women or are making quiet daily impacts with their unstinting courage to flourish in male dominated environments. Yazz’s exceptional ability in conveying an intellectually stimulating and emotional odyssey through her work is busy attacking this multi layered concept into a Suite of Six movements.

Since the turn of the year’s end, the prolific Yazz Ahmed has delved into researching the backgrounds, lives and the stories of six incredible women or representations of womankind to fuel themes for her new work; women who by a force of nature, subtle persuasion or an impenetrable belief in making impossible changes happen (always against all odds) and being able to look beyond their own lives or community. Teaming up with Tomorrow’s Warriors for the second time, Yazz has been commissioned to write a new work that celebrates strong female role models. Tomorrow’s Warriors CEO, Janine Irons MBE explains, ‘Since the beginning of time, women have had to demonstrate remarkable resilience to survive the challenges of inequality and life generally. As a young woman in the music industry, Yazz will be very mindful of this. We are therefore delighted to be able to offer her this important commission, to provide an excellent professional development opportunity both for Yazz and for the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, and to introduce our audiences to some wonderful new music.’

Knowing that Yazz is working with the all-female ensemble of musicians from the NCO brings an entirely fresh and liberating way of working, as she will be able to incorporate their voices and responses through the young musicians’ improvising and creative approach to the material.

YAZZ SIX WOMEN LIST

“The women who inspire me to compose this new work are truly phenomenal” YAZZ AHMED

Yazz, whose Arabic heritage reverberates throughout her music, is in the midst of creating of six rather distinctive pieces that form her new suite, (as yet still untitled), revelling in the chance to meld and fuse musical styles from a range of traditions to reflect the emotion and dynamism of the narratives. NCO ensemble players’ diverse backgrounds in jazz and classical music, will be taken further with interesting interpretations using Arabic percussion by Corrina Silvester – especially pertinent to the movement dedicated to Haifaa al-Mansour – also noting that audiences may expect to hear experimentations in electronic music. Yazz will come at each piece within its own frame, for example, she is fascinated by the tonal values in the speech that Malala Yousafzai delivered at the UN. Not only was Yazz captivated by Malala Yousafzai’s words and her incredible courage, but she was inspired by the manner in which this teenager delivered her legendary statement – her lilting voice, melodic, strong and full of persuasive rhythms. In the case of Ruby Bridges, Yazz’s research focuses that as a six-year child whilst there was pandemonium all around her as she was escorted to school, being taunted and jeered at, she did not understand the full impact of what was going on, but believed that the confusion around her was rather like the atmosphere created at Mardi Gras. Yazz plans to tap into some fragments of those genuine memories to reflect the then frame of mind of a very young girl – who later would go on to be a powerful role model and symbol for civil liberty.

Most of all I am drawing personal inspiration from the project. This composition means so much to me because growing up I did not have role models around me. There were really no females that I knew about or even made aware of – and from some girls, even today, this is still a big gap. Girls need to be encouraged. I see my composition as a way to celebrate  women, and to raise their aspirations. In choosing women from today as well as women from the past –many of whom we still don’t know enough about – for me these six movements celebrate some rather special people who fought and continue to fight. How many people know just what Barbara Thompson goes through every day to give her performances as a top jazz musician. Everyday she fights through her condition (Parkinson’s disease) . A battle she fights to keep herself performing and not giving in to this awful illness.

Yazz anticipates that the NCO female musicians, who hail from quite a range of interesting backgrounds, bring certain attitudes to bear, as well as a very keen understanding of the themes, and cannot help but offer their unmatched interpretation of her music. “I am excited by this concept – of the mixture in the music: jazz; classical; electronic Arabic – it will be moving to see how this precocious ensemble take on the differing waves of compositions and create their own impressions of communicating strong female role models from all around the world. Yes, working with the NCO to celebrate difference and tremendous courage of these women from all walks of life with such a group of talented young players is a real gift.”

We hope that Yazz Ahmed’s inspirational vision for music-making and composing will leave you with a musical memory of the courageous power of young girls and women to transform the world. Do come to The Purcell Room on 8 March to see the exceptional all-female ensemble of the New Civilisation Orchestra.

Made possible through generous funding from the PRS for Music Foundation’s Women Make Music strand, Yazz Ahmed’s new work premieres in The Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall and is part of the annual WOW! Women of the World Festival on Sunday 8 March 2015

Tickets: Book Online or purchase from The Southbank Centre Box Office

Celebrating 100 Goode Years: Happy Birthday Coleridge

Originally posted on Tomorrow's Warriors:

Last week Tomorrow’s Warriors artistic director, Gary CrosbyOBE was able to publicly share his admiration for his mentor at a special interactive concert during the London Jazz Festival.  Today, we are so very proud to celebrate the 100th birthday of the double bass jazz giant and unmatched legend, MrColeridge Goode: ‘Lord Master of the Lower Frequencies’.

Happy Birthday Coleridge! may you celebrate many more glorious years with your family and friends, and keep on inspiring future generations of jazz musicians and lovers of jazz music.

Please join us in celebrating Coleridge’s incredible talent, his influence on the jazz scene and beyond and, most of all, the pure generosity and humanity he shows to those who come after him. Send your appreciation by tweeting #OnceInACentury #ColeridgeGoode100 or commenting on Facebook.

Coleridge Goode, born 29 November 1914, Jamaica, West Indies.

Thanks to Coleridge Goode’s family for photographs and…

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The Nu Civilisation Orchestra is thrilled to be working on an exciting collaboration with the wonderful Clod Ensemble – an organisation described by The Guardian as ‘one of those innovative and anarchic companies thrusting its way through traditional boundaries of drama,’ and whose ‘winning combination of music and experimental physical theatre has made them pioneers of contemporary music theatre’ (Total Theatre).

We asked the orchestra’s Musical Director, Peter Edwards to tell us what they’ve been getting up to:

“In November 2013 the Nu Civilisation Orchestra performed Charles Mingus’ Black Saint And The Sinner Lady at the Purcell Room as part of the London Jazz Festival. In the the audience were Suzy Willson and Paul Clark, artistic directors of the Clod Ensemble.

“Just a few days later, Suzy and Paul got in touch with me and our artistic director, Gary Crosby to discuss the possibility of creating a unique performance of Black Saint that would fuse the music with dance. As Mingus originally wrote this for dance, this was an opportunity we were keen to explore. So, in August this year, we set up a week of workshops with musicians and dancers at Shoreditch Town Hall.

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“The Clod Ensemble made a call out to dancers and selected a small group to participate in the workshop. The dancers were from many different disciplines (physical theatre, ballet, tap, tango, jazz, hip hop, street dance) and all were interested in improvisation.

“We invited a group of Tomorrow’s Warriors to play in each session with the dancers.  We also had a recording of the live performance at the Purcell Room to work with.

“We listened to the live performance and spent some time mapping out the structure of the work with Suzy, Paul and the dancers. Then we began brainstorming ideas and tried out a few scenarios, including creating exercises in which the dancers interpreted the improvisations  of the live musicians and vice versa. It was fascinating to see the dancers embody the music in the moment.

“By the end of the week we had enough structure in place to host a sharing session to invited guests. We put together a full live band to perform alongside the dance group to perform the first prototype version of Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. It was a truly exhilarating performance and a great way to end a very successful week.

CLOD DUET NU CIVVIES 3 OCT“Last month we had another workshop session with Clod Ensemble. This time it was just the dancers working to the recording and  developing the choreography further. At the end of the week we brought back the full band to perform extracts of Black Saint with the dancers for another sharing with invited guests. It was an exhilarating session, and we received lots of positive feedback from the guests and performers alike.

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“It’s very exciting to see this collaboration come together and to collaborate with Clod Ensemble. We look forward very much to performing the finished work with Clod Ensemble in 2015!”

Nu Civilisation Orchestra – ‘better than the original Mingus recording’

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WOW! What an extraordinary, awesome gig we had last Friday – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. Thank you to everyone who came to our SOLD OUT show in the Purcell Room at Southbank Centre. We knew it was going to be an enthralling show – we could feel the buzz building before the show even started – but, according to the audience feedback, our performance blew everyone away!  It was hugely fun, a really fantastic gig. The after-party was pretty special too, with loads of musicians and well-wishers joining us for a celebratory drink as we toasted our musical director, Peter Edwards for his skill and artistry in bringing this amazing piece of music to life; and our visionary Artistic Director and bassist, Gary Crosby for putting Black Saint on the programme in 2013.

Tell me you made a recording! Friday night’s performance sounded better than Mingus’s record itself. It was beguiling. Congratulations!

What a terrific performance tonight by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. One of the [London Jazz] Festival’s standouts….

All the instrumentalists were fantastic – amazing solos, great personalities and such joy in their music – the encore was incredible and really showed off what a great team they all are. I can’t wait to see them again, and I also thought that the arrangement is crying out for a recording to be made. I think that it would make Mingus very happy.

Journalist Jon Turney  was gushing in his praise in his review that appears on the London Jazz News Blog:

[The Nu Civilisation Orchestra] rose to the challenge superbly. The ensemble was flawless. Read the full review…

Nu Civilisation OrchestraOpening the evening with a short but superbly entertaining set were Gary Crosby, Dave Green and Peter Ind who each played a solo piece, followed by an ensemble piece. Towards the end of the piece, Gary Crosby invited Tomorrow’s Warriors bassist, Inga Eichler to the stage and seamlessly handed over his bass to her, symbolically passing on a legacy as, with evident pride, he watched her finish the piece with his fellow Lords. Wonderful, and very powerful.

It’s all about sex at NCO’s orgy of great Mingus in London Jazz Festival

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On Friday 22 November, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra will be in the Purcell Room at Southbank Centre as part of the 2013 London Jazz Festival, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the release of what is widely regarded as Charles Mingus’ finest work and one of the best albums of all time: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady. (Book tickets)

Described in The Guardian by music writer, Richard Williams as ‘…one of his most enthralling works. The album (with liner notes shared between Mingus and his psychiatrist) modifies the traditional blues and folk materials of jazz by bold, rhythmic variations, stark contrasts between dense, low-end harmonies and […] soaring alto sax, collective improvisation, and dissonances swept up into soulful resolutions.’

Reading the liner notes for this album, Artistic Director Gary Crosby has always had a strong sense of a proverbial elephant in the room, so he invited Naomi Selig – a clinical psychologist – to take a quick peek and give us her view.


The liner notes for Charlie Mingus’ album, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady were written by his clinical psychologist, Edmund Pollock, who declared to his patient that, while competent enough as a psychologist, he had only the average person’s interest in music and no technical knowledge. I am similarly qualified – a Jewish clinical psychologist like Dr Pollock, but utterly incompetent when it comes to commenting on music.

However when Gary Crosby approached me to comment on the liner notes for this album, he asked me to focus on the question of why Dr Pollock failed to mention what seems obvious to most listeners of this fabulous suite.

To a large extent the music reflects its title – The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady – and track subtitles, such as Hearts’ Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces, Of Love and Pain and Passioned Revolt. Surely any self-respecting New York psychologist knows that what is being referred to here is sex. But psychologists like to interpret – psychoanalysts may regard sex as implicit in much of our thoughts and actions (although even Freud said a cigar is sometimes just a cigar). But here Mingus is being explicit.

As Stephen J. Chandler comments in Highbrow Magazine, “the album’s opening movement [Solo Dancer] begins tentatively, slinks forward like a curious cat before mews and howls of ecstasy and agony are let loose”. Referring to Hearts’ Beat and Physical Embraces, Chandler says the music is “teetering the line between anticipation and climax – not quite sexuality, there’s a dangerous sensuality” pervading this music. But surely the music is profoundly sexuaI? In Hearts’ Beat and Physical Embraces you can hear the rhythmic pounding of the tuba, starting slow and getting faster, pounding away until the climax. Perhaps not?

I think the answer to why Dr Pollock did not refer to this aspect of the music can be found in a therapy session cited in Mingus’ book, Beneath The Underdog when he says:

“Don’t bulls**t me. You’re a good man Charles, but there’s a lot of fabrication and fantasy in what you say. For instance, no man could have as much intercourse in one night as you claim to have had”

“The hell he couldn’t…”

“You’re changing the subject my friend. I was asking about the Mexican girls. Why are you so obsessed with proving you are a man? Is it because you cry?”

“I am more of a man than any dirty white c**ksucker! I did f*** twenty-three girls in one night including the boss’s wife. I didn’t dig it – I did it because I wanted to die and I hoped it would kill me…..”

It seems to me Pollock understands that Mingus’ voracious sexual appetite or sexual  fantasy life belies a terrible sadness and death wish which they are exploring together in therapy. Perhaps for Pollock it would be an over-simplification, reductive, collusive and an unhelpful indulgence to make much of this in the public arena of liner notes.

Naomi Selig
BA Hons, MSc. CPsychol., AFBPsS


BOOK TICKETS to see Nu Civilisation Orchestra perform 
The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
Friday 22 November at 7.45pm in the Purcell Room @ Southbank Centre, London

Have a listen to The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady on Last FM

Take a look:

Beneath The Underdog by Charles Mingus 

Richard Williams article on Mingus/Black Saint in The Guardian 

Stephen Chandler article http://highbrowmagazine.com/2274-many-moods-charles-mingus

Edwin Faust article http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/on_second_thought/charles-mingus-the-black-saint-and-the-sinner-lady.htm

Nu Civilisation Orchestra premieres Peter Edwards’ WHERE DREAMS LEAD at Southbank Centre

A fantastic world premiere of Peter Edwards’ new piece, Where Dreams Lead on Saturday in tribute to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The work was commissioned by the Lively Up! Festival as part of their programme to mark the 50th Anniversary of Dr King’s ‘March For Jobs’ (more commonly known as his ‘I Have A Dream’) speech.

Conducted by the orchestra’s music director, Peter Edwards, the musicians gave a stunning account of themselves in the Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, London in front of a jam-packed audience. Between each movement, Peter spoke of the inspiration for each part of the suite which covered different aspects of Dr King’s life.

Where Dreams Lead is an outstanding piece of work and we hope very much to be able to tour this work extensively in the future.

Nu Civilisation Orchestra to premiere new Peter Edwards tribute to Martin Luther King

NCO_WDL_A3_1_600pxWe’re taking part in the 2013 Lively Up! Festival which this year marks another significant anniversary: 50 years since civil rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s historic I Have A Dream oration in which he and fellow leaders in the US Civil Rights Movement called for freedom, justice and equality for ALL people.

The Nu Civilisation Orchestra is proud to be premiering a new piece by its musical director, Peter Edwards entitled Where Dreams Lead, commissioned by the Lively Up! Festival.

Where Dreams Lead will premiere on Saturday 26 October at Southbank Centre in the Clore Ballroom. Check the Lively Up! Festival website for more details.