London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra

LJCO group photograph circa 1988.

QuickTime video samples

QuickTime video clips of the LJCO taken from two performances at The Old Theatre, London School of Economics, June 1989. On the first evening, 27 June, the performance consisted of Polyhymnia (40 minutes) and Harmos (47 minutes); on the following night the performance consisted of Study (35 minutes) and Double trouble. Copyright 1989 Clive Stubbs. Video not released commercially; clips here courtesy of Barry Guy and Maya Homburger.

Some background

Formed in the early 1970s partly as a UK response to the possibilities set in train by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler with the Jazz Composers' Orchestra Association. Principle organiser, virtually from the beginning, has been Barry Guy., though in first phase of the Orchestra's life others played important roles. In his notes to Harmos, Guy admits that his early music, after Ode, became increasingly academic and this gradually alienated many musicians, while 'our then-conductor, Buxton Orr, held the ship together against increasingly difficult odds'. This was balanced in the second phase by compositions from Howard Riley (Triptych, Zynan, 2 designs), Paul Rutherford (Sacre bleu spring song, Satellites II), Kenny Wheeler (Waiting for Beckett) and Tony Oxley (Alpha, Angular apron, Angular apron III), who brought the orchestra back to a more musically acceptable point and moved them away from being a conducted ensemble. The 'third era' really started with 'Four pieces for jazz orchestra' (issued as Springer on FMP, though Polyhymnia finally initiated the new direction.

The third phase was also heralded in by an increase in recording. Only two recordings appeared in the first 15 years of the orchestra's life but since 1989 fairly regular recordings have accompanied the orchestra's activities, all on the Intakt label. Also in 1989, the LJCO appeared with Globe Unity Orchestra performing compositions by Guy and Alexander Von Schlippenbach. The Guy composition, Double trouble never appeared on a CD in this form but in a version for single orchestra, though it was resurrected in 1995 as Double trouble II with Irène Schweizer, Marilyn Crispell and Pierre Favre.

Further information

Smith, Bill (1993). Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers' Orchestra. Coda, no. 248, (March/April) pp. 6-10.

Evan Parker talks briefly about the LJCO in an interview with Improjazz.


1972, Ode, Incus 6-7/Intakt CD 041.
1980/1991, Study II/Stringer, Intakt CD095. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1987/1988, Zurich concerts, Intakt 005.
1989, Harmos, Intakt CD013.
1989, Double trouble, Intakt CD019.
1991, Theoria, Intakt CD 024. Written as 50th birthday present for Irene Schweizer with her as guest soloist.
1993, Portraits, Intakt CD 035; double CD package.
1995, Three pieces for orchestra, Intakt CD 045. With guests Marilyn Crispell and Maggie Nicols.
1995, Double trouble two, Intakt CD 053. With guests Irène Schweizer, Marilyn Crispell and Pierre Favre.
2008, Radio rondo/Schaffhausen concert, Intakt CD 158. LJCO/Irène Schweizer.
2008, Harmos, Intakt DVD 151.

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