The United States Military Academy has several bands drawn from graduates of prestigious music schools in the U.S. The Jazz Knights, who form one segment, have been around for 30 years. During that time they have played with Benny Goodman and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and have also welcomed Steve Turre, James Carter and John Clayton, among others, as guests. At First Light
tells its own tale of a resolute band, with a program of original material and a couple of standards.
With imaginative arrangements to complement skillful playing, the music signals a treat right from the swinging "Alone Together." The charts open for ensemble lines and counterpoint which turn out to be the herald for some nifty solos. There are three, and each player finds his own groove. Mike Reifenberg turns in taut phrases on alto sax while Eric Ordway plays lush trombone, all smooth and linear until he tears it open with jumpy, swing lines. And then there's Scott Drewes on drums, who enlivens the rhythmic spectrum with his accents and beat.
Reifenberg 's "The Basilisk" undergoes several changes. A funky opening leads into mainstream orchestration until he takes his alto soaring into the sky of free invention. John Castleman decides that his trumpet can molten a bop groove and he is splendidly right about that. The sway and the punch fall into place neatly on this scintillating tune.
"The Stakeout" is a bop tune that rides on the lines of the band at first, then opens to invite David Loy Song, who vitalizes the melody and reshapes it with engrossing improvisations. Vito Speranza takes another direction, unraveling fiery trumpet permutations and going far out without falling into the vat of excess.
The Jazz Knights keep their music and playing in focus. The perspective makes for tasty listening.
Personnel: Chief Warrant Officer Matthew C. Morse; director; Staff Sgt. John Castleman: lead trumpet; Staff Sgt. Vito Speranza: trumpet II; Sgt 1st Class Rich Johnson: trumpet III; Staff Sgt. Josh Economy: trumpet IV; Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg: lead alto, soprao, flute, clarinet; Staff Sgt. Derrick James: alto II, clarinet; Staff Sgt. David Loy Song: tenor I, clarinet; Sgt. 1st Class Jay Malone: tenor II, clarinet; Master Sgt Gary McCourry: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Staff Sgt. Dan Pierce: lead trombone; Staff Sgt. Eric Ordway: trombone II; Master Sgt. Ron Fleischman: trombone III; Master Sgt. Teddy Arnold: bass trombone; Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli: guitar; Sgt. 1st Class Scott Archangel: piano; Staff Sgt. Brandon Nelson: bass; Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes: drums.