How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The third recording by the uncommonly proficient UNLV Jazz Ensemble, and first under its new director, Rocky Winslow, gives an indication of the direction in which the program is moving. All but one of the eight selections were either written or arranged by students; the exception is Kenny Wheeler’s breezy toe–tapper, “Miold Man,” scored by pianist Stefan Karlsson who teaches arranging to the others and provides a splendid example here of how to lock a big band in an admirably kicking groove. UNLV, which seems always to have drawn topnotch players into its orbit, unveils some bright young composer/arrangers on Outside the Lines, especially pianist Rachel Eckroth who wrote the captivating opener, “Poem,” and arranged the finale, Keith Jarrett’s irrepressible “Bop Be.” By way of comparison, picture a Maria Schneider or Carla Bley who can swing (okay, they sometimes do, but I’m trying to make a point here). Eckroth is also a perceptive soloist, as she shows on “Miold Man,” “Bop Be” and trumpeter Chris Ecklund’s “Crane Child” (a Latin–style tone poem on which his warm flugel shares the solo space). Trombonist Nathan Tanouye wrote the charming Jazz waltz “Just Dreaming,” tenor saxophonist Doug Wright the episodic “Inkling,” fellow tenor Matt Taylor the dark–hued “Whistle While You Weep,” and trombonist Dave Philippus charted Wayne Shorter’s remarkably descriptive “Schizophrenia.” Each of them is a capable soloist as well, with Tanouye heard on “Poem” and “Dreaming,” Wright on “Schizophrenia” and “Inkling,” Taylor on “Schizophrenia,” “Miold Man” and “Dreaming,” Philippus on “Whistle While You Weep” (another Philippus, alto saxophonist Dan, solos on “Poem”). The ensemble is tight and focused, and while not everything works precisely as well as its author may have intended (excerpts from the actual scores are sprinkled throughout the informative liner notes), there are many worthwhile moments, the most agreeable of which, to these ears, are embodied! in Eckroth’s enterprising charts, Tanouye’s “Just Dreaming” and Karlsson’s first–class arrangement of “Miold Man.” The UNLV program is indeed moving forward; those who choose to tag along will find the journey more than worthwhile.
Track listing: Poem; Schizophrenia; Miold Man; Inkling; Crane Child; Just Dreaming; Whistle While You Weep; Bop Be (64:41).
Dan Philippus, Rob Stone, Doug Wright, Matt Taylor, Steve Dawson, saxes; Tom DeLibero, Tom Ehlen, Jason Colby, Chris Chapman, Danny Pass, Chris Ecklund, trumpets; Dave Philippus, Nathan Tanouye, Kres Franzen, Ben Nollola, Dan Uhrich, trombones; Rachel Eckroth, piano; Rich Taylor, guitar; Kevin Thomas, bass; Chris Benham, drums; Orlando Santos, percussion.
Contact: Troppe Note Publishing, P.O. Box 374, Lomita, CA 90717.