Rowan University Lab Band: Collaboration (2004)

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Rowan University Lab Band: Collaboration
How many records in your collection feature a song with a contra bassoon trading solos with a bass flute, baritone sax and a wailing electric guitar? The song is "Jackson Square," the group: The Rowan University Lab Band on Collaboration.

These student bands come along and they can fool you into lowered expectations. You know right off the bat that the group is not comprised of seasoned professionals. But last year's Romances by The University of Miami Concert Band, which featured four Maria Schneider compositions—three of them previously unrecorded—cured this listener of any lowered expectations. It's a marvelous recording that introduced a big chunk of Schneider's masterpiece, Concert in the Garden to the music world.

Collaboration has that "concert band" feeling, too, with three saxophones, four brass, bassoon, flute, French horn, percussion and rhythm section. The playing here is consistently top notch, and the arrangements—mostly by multiple reedman Denis DiBlasio, Director of Jazz Studies at Rowan—weave the textures and brush the odd combinations of colors with a deftness and sparkle that rival the sounds on any big band set out there. Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" features perhaps the prettiest arrangement on the disc, a mix of light (flute) and dark (French horn, flugelhorn) colorations in front of a rich harmonies. Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," with its beautiful, smooth, woody bassoon solo (Pam Levecchia) stands out as well.

"Capriole," composed and arranged by George Genna, Professor of Jazz Piano, reminds me of a cool (post Birth of the... ) workout, with its back-and-forth baritone sax/alto sax conversations. And I can't say enough about the inclusion of the vibraphone (played by Behn Gillece) here. As on Dave Holland's recent work, the vibes give the collaborative sound on Collaboration a beautiful luminescent undertone.

Miles Davis' "All Blues" closes the show, a phenomenal live version with dark blue solos by Maeve Royce on cello and Jim Rattigan on French horn. It's a gorgeous, deep indigo take on the classic tune.

An excellent set! Seasoned professionals these may not be, but wonderfully talented musicians they most definitely are. Collaboration can sit on the shelf and alongside—and play on the stereo before, after or in between—the best big band sounds out there.

Track Listing: Cherokee, Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, Capriole, Jackson Square, I Doug Where the Mapp Said "X", Joe Beam, Dizzy, Little Sunflower, Linus and Lucy, Walkin' in the Rain, Dig, All Blues

Personnel: Allison Mersiowsky--piccolo, flute, bass flute; Amanda Smith--French horn; Pam Levecchia--bassoon, contra bassoon; Dave lackner--alto sax; Kara Milici--tenor sax; Owen Sczerba--baritone sax; Jonathan Barnes, Nick Fernandez--trumpet, flugelhorn; Bradley Chwastyk--euphonium; Scott Van Brug--trombone; Adrian Nikolica--piano; Chris Arter--guitar; Maeve Royce--bass, cello on "All Blues"; Chris Pastin--drums; Behn Gillece--vibes and percussion; Special Guest on Jazz French Horn--Jim Ratigan; Doug Mapp--bass on "All Blues"

Record Label: Dreambox Media

Style: Big Band

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