Neil Richard Ardley (26 May 1937–23 February 2004) was a prominent English jazz pianist and composer, who also made his name as the author of more than 100 popular books on science and technology, and on music.
Neil Ardley was born in Wallington, Surrey. He attended Wallington County Grammar School and at the age of thirteen started to learn the piano and later the saxophone. He read Chemistry at Bristol University, where he also played both piano and saxophone in jazz groups, and from which he graduated in 1959 with a BSc.
Ardley moved to London and studied arranging and composing with Ray Premru and Bill Russo from 1960 to 1961. He joined the John Williams Big Band as pianist, writing both arrangements and new compositions, and from 1964 to 1970 was the director of the newly formed New Jazz Orchestra, which employed some of the best young musicians in London, including Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman, Barbara Thompson, Dave Gelly, Mike Gibbs, Don Rendell, and Trevor Tomkins.
In the late 1960s, encouraged by record producer and impresario Denis Preston, Ardley began composing in earnest, combining classical and jazz methods. His rich orchestrations were augmented in the 1970s by the addition of synthesisers. His contemporary jazz album Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows was number 22 in the New Musical Express top 24 albums of 1976. However, as he began work on an all-electronic album in 1980, Ardley’s recording contract was suddenly terminated, and he fell back on his writing and publishing career. He continued to play and compose, especially with Zyklus, the electronic jazz group he formed with composer (and former student) John L. Walters, Derbyshire musician Warren Greveson and Ian Carr.
Singing in local choirs in the later 1990s led Ardley to start composing choral music, and this occupied most of his musical attention until his death. At the time of his death, Ardley had begun to gig and record again with a slimmed down Zyklus consisting of himself, Warren Greaveson, and Nick Robinson.
Ardley joined the editorial staff of the World Book Encyclopedia in 1962, when the London branch of the American publisher was producing an international edition. This took four years, during which time he developed the skill of editing and writing introductory material for the young. After a brief period working for Hamlyn, he became a freelance editor in 1968 (which enabled him to continue with his musical career). In the 1970s, he moved into writing introductory books, mostly for children, on natural history (especially birds), science and technology, and music, such as What Is It?.
Just as his composing and performance had been moved forward by the introduction and development of technology, so too with his publishing career, as computers began to become more and more important. In 1984 Ardley began to write mainly for Dorling Kindersley, producing a series of books which included the best-selling (over three million copies worldwide) and award-winning The Way Things Work, illustrated by David Macaulay.
When he retired in 2000 Ardley had written 101 books, with total sales of about ten million.
In 1960, Ardley married Bridget Gantley, and the couple had one daughter. In 2003 he married Vivian Wilson. He died in Milford, Derbyshire. (by wikipedia)
The polymath British composer and bandleader Neil Ardley foresaw much of today’s genre-bending, often via his leadership of the south London rehearsal band that became the New Jazz Orchestra in the mid-60s. These two 1971 BBC radio sessions join music from Ardley, Mike Gibbs, the shortlived piano visionary Mike Taylor, Barbara Thompson and Cream’s Jack Bruce, with Ardley’s and electronicist Keith Winter’s chamber-jazzy experimental suite, The Time Flowers.
Gibbs’s Tanglewood ’63 combines the NJO’s subtlety and rock-savvy rhythm section with characterful improv from trumpeter Harry Beckett and the bluesy saxist Dick Heckstall-Smith. A standout segue of Taylor’s pensive and harmonically audacious Half Blue and Pendulum is warmed by Ian Carr’s glowing flugelhorn sound. The Time Flowers joins glimpses of Miles Davis and Gil Evans’s Sketches of Spain with soft classical strings, electronic chimes and empathic dialogue between Carr and the Coltrane-esque saxophonist Don Rendell, in textural collages that only occasionally have a treading-water feel. Progressive music from almost half a century back, it sounds remarkably fresh. (by John Fordham)
Clem Clempson (guitar)
Jeff Clyne (bass)
Dave Greenslade (keyboards)
Dick Hart (tuba)
Jon Hiseman (drums)
Frank Ricotti (vibraphone, percussion)
Barbara Thompson – Brian Smith – Dick Heckstall-Smith – Don Rendell – Dave Gelly
Bud Parkes – Harry Beckett – Henry Lowther – Ian Carr – Nigel Carter
Derek Wadsworth – Mike Gibbs Robin Gardner
Barry Guy (bass)
Reginald Leopold (violin)
Don Rendell (saxophone)
Keith Winter (electronics)
London Studio Strings
conducted by Neil Ardley
Colosseum as a part of The New Jazz Orchestra:
‘Jazz Club’, BBC Radio 2 And 3, February 14th 1971:
01. Stratusphunk (Russell) 5.52
02. Introduction by Humphrey Lyttelton 1.03
03. Tanglewood ’63 (Gibbs) 6.31
04. Anouncement 0.35
05. Half Blue (Taylor) 2.21
06. Pendulum (Taylor) 4.35
07. Anouncement 0.48
08. Terre De Miel (Thompson) 5.16
09. Anouncement 0.29
10. The Immortal Ninth (Bruce) 6-09
‘Jazz In Britain’ On BBC Radio 3, September 27th 1971:
11. Anouncement by Brian Priestley 1.01
12. The Time Flowers (Winter/Ardley) 27.54
Tracks 01. to 11. pre-recorded live at the Camden Theatre, London, for ” Jazz Club ” on BBC Radio 2 and 3
Track 12. re-recorded without audience at the Aeolian Hall, London, for ” Jazz in Britain ” on BBC Radio 3