Oxford University Jazz Orchestra
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The Oxford University Jazz Orchestra (OUJO) is an award-winning jazz orchestra based in the University of Oxford, England. Founded in 1991 it is the longest-running ensemble of its type in the university.
The Oxford University Jazz Orchestra was founded by students in the early 1990s, initially as a word-of-mouth, unauditioned group, later developing into a full-fledged, professional standard big band. Notable alumni from the band include Canadian jazz vocalist Diane Nalini, trumpeter and NYJO musical director Mark Armstrong, London-based trombonist Callum Au, saxophonists Carlos Lopez-Real and Idris Rahman, and ENO conductor Stephen Higgins.
OUJO has been a multiple-time winner at the BBC Radio 2 National Big Band Competition, and has performed at the Oeuf de Jazz Festival in Le Mans, the OK! Celebrity Ball in London, and the Bull's Head jazz venue in Barnes, west London, as well as many venues in and around Oxford, including the Oxford Union, the Jacqueline du Pré music building, the Jericho Tavern, and Blenheim Palace.
In 2002, OUJO recorded the live LP Know Where You Are. The album featured special guest saxophonist Peter King. The orchestra has since made several recordings, including its New York EP.
In more recent years, OUJO has performed at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival and performed jazz legend Kenny Wheeler's Sweet Time Suite at St Barnabas Church, Oxford, earning the praise of the composer. The band has also run open jazz workshops for Oxford University students.
In 2010, OUJO toured New York City, performing at multiple venues including a performance for the Hudson Union Society at the Russian Tea Room and as part of the "After Work" series in Bryant Park.
In 2012, the band toured to Canada, performing at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival, supporting the Mingus Big Band on the main stage at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, and playing at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In 2013, OUJO became an official Oxford University Music Society affiliated ensemble.
The Oxford University Jazz Orchestra was linked with the Oxford University Big Band (OUBB), another jazz orchestra based in Oxford. The group was based on a band formed in 1961 by NYJO founder Bill Ashton and Peter Hartley, revived in 2005 and run separately alongside OUJO.
The ensemble became the first ever big band to perform in Oxford's leading concert hall, the Sheldonian Theatre, and performed at many venues throughout Oxford and London, including the Jacqueline Du Pré Auditorium and at the Bulls Head in Barnes. The band also performed with several notable soloists, including Dave O'Higgins, Mark Nightingale, and Mark Armstrong, whose four-part "Solstice Suite" was premiered by the OUBB.
The OUBB toured annually, with locations including Barcelona, Delhi and Mumbai, the Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, the Vienne Jazz Festival, and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The Oxford University Big Band has since merged with OUJO.
OUJO performs regularly on the Oxford ball circuit, including at the famous Commemoration balls, having appeared in lineups with major recording artists such as The Streets, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Natty, and Athlete. The band represents Oxford annually in a Varsity ‘jazzoff’ match against the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, its Cambridge equivalent. The group plays a musically diverse repertoire ranging from big band swing classics to contemporary and original compositions, as well as new arrangements of popular songs. In 2014, members of OUJO performed in a quintet with Wynton Marsalis for an event at Ertegun House.
In 2015, OUJO performed Duke Ellington's choral composition The Sacred Concerts, in collaboration with Schola Cantorum of Oxford, saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, and vocalist Tina May, and tap dancer Annette Walker at the Sheldonian Theatre.
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