Ever hear of Whitworth College? You say you have? Good. Can you please tell me where it is? You can’t? Well, don’t hang your head, compadre; few people could. Whitworth is actually situated in lovely Spokane, Washington. Yes, the college does have a Jazz Studies program, and yes, the Jazz ensemble, ably directed by Dr. Dan Keberle, has recorded an admirable CD, Boppin’ Back — if it hadn’t, there wouldn’t be much point in writing this, would there? Two aspects stand out: first, the uncommon tightness of the ensemble; second, the consistently impressive quality of the soloists (one of the more effective of which is Keberle himself whose bright–toned trumpet bops merrily along on the title track, which he co–wrote with Luke Gillespie). Also making convincing statements are another faculty member, alto saxophonist Pat Shook (featured on “Lover Man” and also heard on “Boppin’ Back”); tenor Marcus Denny; trumpeters Darrington, Woods and Jones; bassist Gruber, and pianists Patterson and Tom Shook (who has “Madelyn’s Song” to himself). This is a finely–honed college–level ensemble, and the music Keberle has chosen draws out the best it has to offer. The blues–oriented spirit of Basie/Neal Hefti is refashioned on Quincy Jones’ “Pleasingly Plump” (embellished by Woods’ muted trumpet), the sax section sparkles on Francy Boland’s kicking arrangement of “Lullaby of the Leaves,” and everyone gets down on Frank Foster’s exuberant flag–waver, “State of the Art Swing.” Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’” is a perfect opener, preceding superb treatments of engaging compositions by Bob Mintzer (“Frankie’s Tune”), Dizzy Gillespie (“I Waited for You”), Foster again (“Katherine the Great”) and Matt Harris (“Mambo de Memo,” “Madelyn’s Song”). Never heard of Whitworth? It’s time you did. Easily recommended.
Track listing: Moanin’; Frankie’s Tune; I Waited for You; Katherine the Great; Boppin’ Back; Lover Man; Mambo de Memo; Madelyn’s Song; Pleasingly Plump; Lullaby of the Leaves; State of the Art Swing (60:33).
Chad Dahl, Nathan Distelhorst, alto sax; Marcus Denny, Robert Rose, tenor sax; Kyla Cleworth, baritone sax; Mark Dungan, Matt Parker, Mark Darrington, Kevin Woods, Mike Jones, Nathan Palpant, trumpets; Melinda Brown, Steve Jost, Eric Fechter, trombones; John Nelson, bass trombone; Tom Shook, Ben Patterson, piano; Eric Gruber, bass; Jes Brown, Bryan Swenland, drums, percussion.