Sydney Youth Jazz Orchestra at Cronulla Jazz Festival

After months of cancelled gigs – first due to Covid then weather – The JWA Sydney Youth Jazz Orchestra, directed by Dr. Saul Richardson, returned to the stage this weekend with a fine set at the Cronulla Jazz Festival.

SYJO at Cronulla Jazz Festival 2022


Covid-19, endless rain, personnel changes. These are some of the challenges facing probably most student and community big bands in Sydney in recent months. The JWA Sydney Youth Jazz Orchestra has not been immune to disruption. It has been especially frustrating this year with several outdoor gigs cancelled due to the extreme wet weather. 

It was a joy for the band to finally get back to performing this weekend with a 90-minute set at the Cronulla Jazz Festival. This was SYJO’s second appearance at this relatively new festival, playing on the marvelous Mall Amphitheatre stage. This is a stage with good acoustics and natural projection. The members of the band can hear each other clearly, and the audience can hear well without much amplification.

Cronulla jazz festival set, 2022

The set started with SYJO’s traditional opener Orange Sherbet, by Sammy Nestico. In fact, the set was to include many Nestico tunes, in tribute to a composer/arranger whose works are widely-played and much-loved, especially among student bands. Sammy Nestico died in 2021 and we fondly remember him though his music.

The set continued with Indiana, featuring some excellent sax section work and a fine solo by Noah Mejia on his debut with SYJO. Next was Granada Smoothie, a fast and challenging samba by Mark Taylor featuring Ben Gotley (trumpet) & Millie Ottaviano (trombone). Then came Satin Doll (arr. Nestico), featuring Ben Weatherall on guitar, taking several choruses at the top, and Esther McCormick on piano. Esther was also making her debut with SYJO this gig.

Other tunes included:

  • Do Nothing ’til you hear from me (arr. Nestico). Esther McCormick (piano)
  • On the sunny side of the street (arr. Nestico). Ben Gotley (trumpet)
  • Conspiracy Theory by Mike Tomaro. Featuring epic trombone section work and solos by Elliot Kameron (trombone) & Itsuki Usami (tenor sax)
  • Oh so nice, by Sammy Nestico. Esther McCormick (piano) & Elliott Kameron (trombone)
  • A little blues please, by Sammy Nestico. Solos by Zac Nisbett (bass), Charlie Liell (trombone), Ben Weatherall (guitar), Fin FitzSimons (trumpet), & Josh Chee (drums).
  • This old house (arr. Ed Wilson). Solos: Ben Weatherall (guitar) & Elliott Kameron (trombone)
  • Odyssey by Sammy Nestico. Solo: Aidan Welch (bari sax)
  • Like someone in love (arr. Michelle Shih). Solo: Sam Leong (alto sax), debut performance with SYJO.
  • Buck’s Mambo by Saul Richardson. Solos by Liam Gotley (trumpet), Noah Mejia (alto sax), & Josh Chee (drums)
  • Super Chief by Doug Beach. Solos by Kegan Hofmeyr (trombone), Jasper Kameron (trumpet), & Sam Leong (alto sax).
Elliott and Esther with SYJO
Sam Leong soloing, cronulla jazz festival 22
SYJo trumpet section cronulla 22
syjo sax section june 2022
view from cronulla amphitheatre stage

As mentioned above, this was the SYJO debut for several new members: Mya Hill (trumpet), Sam Leong (alto sax), Noah Mejia (alto sax), and Esther McCormick (piano). This is shaping up to be a tremendous incarnation of the Sydney Youth Jazz Orchestra. A fine performance in a nice venue with a really good sound engineer. An excellent warm-up less than a week out from the Merimbula Jazz Festival 10-12 June.

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