THE HERITAGE ORCHESTRA was initially devised for the Heritage
club-night by Chris Wheeler & Jules Buckley. In June 2004 it was
the biggest band ever to play in a UK club, with twelve string players;
an eight-piece rhythm section; six brass; a woodwind section of six;
and three vocalists. In its current state it performs with at least 43
musicians on stage.
On Thursday 3rd June 2004 The Heritage Orchestra performed for the first time, attracting 600 people into Cargo; one of the few venues that could technically deal with the band. Yet it was more than just a spectacle; Buckley’s original cinematic jazz/funk compositions and stunning orchestrations surpassed any expectations and left the audience awestruck. The first gig was followed by a sell-out concert at St.Luke’s in London; a collaboration with The Heritage Orchestra, Brian Eno and the Royal College of Arts.
C ollaboration was the next step to push the band forward, and what better artist to reinterpret than Chris Bowden (Ninja Tune, Soul Jazz), who has been featuring with the band since November 29th 2004. This exciting project brought out the orchestra’s flare for alternative big band jazz, and in the space of 10 days a selection of tracks from Bowden’s back catalogue (Time Capsule, Slightly Askew) was masterfully orchestrated by Jules Buckley. Word from the heaving crowd soon spread and prompted an invite to record a session for Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show on BBC Radio One, broadcast on Sunday 27th March 2005. As a warm up to the session the band were given a slot at the Barbican for the BBC Jazz Britannia Festival.
In industry terms the group has attained overnight success, The Heritage Orchestra is only 18 months old after all. It goes to show that despite major orchestras regurgitating and replicating a bygone era, there is an untapped audience who want to support the voice of a bunch of twenty-year-olds. For these people the future of orchestral music lies not with the resurrection of a great form but with its reinvention. As time has told it often takes a new generation to revitalise the old, represent the new, and capture the future. This was made plainly obvious at the 2005 Montreux Jazz Festival in the Miles Davis Hall (9/7/5), where a questioning audience were truly won over by the orchestral might of Heritage with help from spiritual master Dwight Trible, vocal diva Natalie Williams and old friend Chris Bowden.
Of course the next step had to be a record, and after toying with the idea of a self-release THO were offered a deal to join Gilles Peterson & Simon Goffe’s new label. So whilst planning towards a headline gig at the Barbican for the London Jazz Festival there was also the small matter of a 3 day session in Abbey Road Studio One, which they launched into directly afterwards. The impossible task was overcome with true Heritage team-work from unfailingly enthusiastic players, unsurpassable Abbey Road technicians, the experienceand skill of Dill Harris (Engineer), the mighty leadership of Jules Buckley (Composer/ conductor) and the driving force of task-master Chris Wheeler (Producer).