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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

National Youth Jazz Orchestra: The Amy Winehouse Celebration Tour


Concert Tour Review: Amy Winehouse: A Celebration of her life & music - the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Across the country, until 10 April 2022. Dates and booking links here.

[Disclosure: I attended the concert for free, for the purposes of this review.]

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra is touring its Amy Winehouse celebration show across the country until April 2022. Founded by Bill Ashton in 1965, the NYJO has made the most extraordinary contributions to the UK’s jazz scene – producing a steady stream of exceptional and influential jazz musicians, since its inception.

Bill Ashton receiving his OBE in 2010. Photo Credit: Ted Rockley

One superb NYJO alumnus was Amy Winehouse. Amy debuted as a singer with the NYJO at a Sunday lunchtime gig when she was only 16 – one of her first public performances.

Amy performing with the NYJO. Photo by Bill Ashton.

Rumour has it that the NYJO has a fuzzy recording of that performance – I was able to find a tiny, 13 second clip of what I think is that performance. Even in this short clip, you can hear her absolutely special and unique talent.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Amy’s untimely death and the NYJO have decided to celebrate her life and their connection to Amy with a concert tour. Talented composer/arranged Olivia Murphy has chosen Amy’s songs and arranged them for the big band – and she’s done a fantastic job. It was great to hear Amy’s songs live, backed up by a full brass section and gorgeously sung, with a huge smile, by the talented Lucy-Anne Daniels.

Vocalist Lucy Anne-Daniels and composer/arranger Olivia Murphy. Photo by Ellie Koepke.

The concert is an hour long and the orchestra played fan favourites such as Back to Black, Know You Now, Rehab and of course, Valerie, among many others. Each song was arranged not only to feature the full orchestra but gave the opportunity for at least one, and often two, musicians to solo; we heard solos from the drums, trumpets, saxes, the flute, the flugel horn and the piano. The musicianship on display was outstanding.

The concert was held in Oxford's beautiful Town Hall. I took this photo just before the concert started.

It was absolutely wonderful to hear these gorgeous, heart-breaking songs sung live and backed by the most talented young jazz musicians in the country.

I took this photo just before the concert started.

When listening to Amy singing her songs, even at the happiest times, she had a brittle, fragile delicacy to her performances that pulled at your heartstrings. There was none of that in the NYJO’s concert – it was a completely joyous celebration of Amy’s music and her legacy. Amy’s talent was taken from the world too early, but the NYJO is doing a terrific job honouring her legacy with this cheerful and optimistic concert.

If you love Amy’s music, or just jazz in general, then grab a ticket to this fabulous concert while you can.


Square Stage
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