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This is, to my knowledge, the first recording by the Stanford University Jazz Orchestra. Methinks they should do this more often. Guest Louie Bellson, who appears on two selections, showers praise on director Fred Berry and his youthful ensemble, and the compliments are well–deserved. While the number of first–class college bands is steadily increasing, there’s always room for one more, and Stanford proves beyond any doubt on this superlative album that it deserves a place near the top rung of the ladder. Berry’s students have done their homework and turn in one impressive essay after another, starting with Rick Walsh’s Ernie Wilkins/Thad Jones–based cooker “High in the Nineties” and closing with Marian McPartland’s atmospheric tone poem, “Ambiance.” Sandwiched between are Wayne Shorter’s “GO!,” Matt Catingub’s passionate “Love Story — Part 1,” Cedar Walton’s boppish “Groundwork,” Bellson/Jack Hayes/Peggy Lee’s “Where Did You Go?” and Bellson’s showcases, Bob Florence’s clamorous “Wake–Up Call” and the gladsome “Good News,” which Bellson co–authored with Tommy Newsom. “Wake–Up Call,” a formidable litmus test for any ensemble, poses no problem whatsoever for Stanford’s brass and reeds who ace the exam with room to spare. And with Bellson in the driver’s seat, the rhythm section easily keeps pace. Elsewhere, as on “GO!” or “Groundwork,” drummer Jason Wall shows that the younger generation also has what it takes to incite the rhythm (and dig his show–stopping cannonade on “Groundwork”). Stanford has several other enterprising soloists, the most prominent among whom are alto saxophonist Chad Hollingsworth (superb on “Love Song”) and guitarist Sebastien Lanson (ditto on “Where Did You Go?,” recorded some years ago on Bellson’s album, Dynamite!, with another fabulous guitarist, John Chiodini, displaying his awesome chops at the Monterey Jazz Festival). Also making the most of their opportunities are tenors Yonatan Eyal and Stefan Harmeling, trumpeter Eric Lounsbury, bassist Adam Magid and pianist John Horton. Everyone supports them with unflagging enthusiasm, working seamlessly together to help make the Stanford Jazz Orchestra’s debut an emphatic success.
Track listing: High in the Nineties; Who Brings You the Good News?; GO!; A Love Story — Part 1; Your Wake–Up Call; Groundwork; Where Did You Go? (Something for Sebastien); Ambiance (59:21).
Chad Hollingsworth, Kelly Garrett, alto sax; Yonatan Eyal, Stefan Harmeling, tenor sax; Bendik Kleveland, baritone sax; Drue Kataoka, flute; Laurie Wilson, Nik Ingle, John Gibbs, Kristy Wilson, Ben Drucker, trombone; Niel Levonius, Christina Taber, Eric Lounsbury, Will Buck, trombone; John Horton, piano; Adam Magid, bass; Sebastien Lanson, guitar; Jason Wall, drums. Special guest Louie Bellson, drums (