-Posted on 19.05.2014

It’s been a particular pleasure to watch the rapid rise in the jazz firmament of Troyk-estra. The big band reincarnation of Troyka is an impressive example how Academy-led projects can run and run, developing their own creative impetus and taking on a special energy all of their own. 

Chris Montague, Joshua Blackmore and Kit Downes got together as students at the Academy around five years ago. Jamie Cullum recently described them individually as ‘three of the most important young British jazz musicians we have in this country’, and together as a trio they are making real waves. They performed most recently at the Brighton Dome on Saturday, in the Brighton Festival. 

Back in March 2012 Jon Newey, the editor of Jazzwise, was looking for something special to celebrate the magazine’s fifteenth birthday. Our Head of Jazz, Nick Smart, had already discussed with Troyka the possibility of expanding and applying their exceptional energy and inventiveness into Big Band format; it went ahead, commissioned for the Jazzwise celebrations. Nick conducted the inaugural performance at Ronnie Scott’s, which brilliantly adopted some of Troyka’s existing charts and added some brand-new numbers – and left everyone wanting more.

Most of this original line-up are still in Troyk-estra and their past performances now include a memorable appearance at Cheltenham International Music Festival, when their first album was recorded – the disc that was presented a few days ago with the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Jazz Album of the Year. They have since played at the Southbank in the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival, and are now planning appearances in November at Birmingham’s CBSO Centre and Turner Simms in Southampton. 

It’s a fantastic example of what Nick does so well on his course – harnessing the skills of our past generations of alumni and finding all sorts of ways to pass their expertise directly on to our current students.

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