The Heritage Orchestra- The Heritage Orchestra


Heritage, something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth, refers to many different “somethings”: estates, heirlooms, genetic diseases, but most importantly, traditions. If Tevye did not teach us already, traditions build cultures, yet it is always those who break tradition that we remember. We call it innovation. The aptly named Heritage Orchestra, however, have discovered the key to combining tradition with innovation, pushing boundaries through reverting to old techniques.

First, one must understand that The Heritage Orchestra is truly an orchestra, 45 strong with a deep string section and powerful brass. Mingled inside the orchestral set up lies a jazz rhythm section, with guitar, bass, drums, vibes, keyboards, and other various instruments. Unlike an unbalanced mesh of two completely different styles (e.g. Trans-Siberian Orchestra), this group manages to mix jazz and classical music perfectly, where the modern rhythm section does not dominate the strings or vice versa. They truly play like one group, a remarkable achievement for the wide variety of instruments played at the same time. Under the leadership of Jules Buckley, conductor and composer, as well as co-founder Chris Wheeler, The Heritage Orchestra takes the best young musicians of London and crams them together into a gigantic force thus far unknown to music. The music sounds as much like Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as it does Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” (more commonly known as the Napoleon Dynamite dance song). The stunning amount of variety is the album’s strongest point by far.

Obviously, upon listening to their music, The Heritage Orchestra makes more of a live band than a studio band. Mixed with the energetic rhythm section, improvised solos, and beautiful string chorales thrown into the music, they leave a lot open to interpretation. Therefore, it is not surprising to discover that the band actually formed at a club-night event called Heritage, designed to showcase jazz and classical music. Unfortunately, the event ceased in 2005, and the orchestra decided to make the orchestra a full-time job as they set out to record their debut album. The result- six brilliant compositions that fully immerse into the fields that artists like Jaga Jazzist and The Cinematic Orchestra merely touch. Each song is sure to include a gorgeous string and brass chorale section that grows into an acid jazz jam, although sometimes this process is reversed or inverted. Chris Bowden gives an outstanding performance on alto sax in “Mothers and Daughters Now Mothers” and the second movement of “The 1890 Affair”, while Natalie Williams provides her brilliant voice on album centerpiece “Sky Breaks” and “Tell Me Stories.”

To describe the music of The Heritage Orchestra in depth would be redundant. Everything they play has been done before, but no one has combined everything they do quite like this. The overall concepts stun on this album, not the finer details. Certainly a strong debut, The Heritage Orchestra has a rich future ahead of them, even while they keep looking to the past for inspiration.