The Reno Jazz Quintet is composed of faculty members from the University of Nevada–Reno, and the disc’s subtitle is “featuring Randy Porter.” The pianist is certainly a standout mainstream player, an observation that is no less accurate when applied to Engstrom, Vanek or Strong (who carves his niche on “Just in Time”). Porter, who has backed the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer and Charles McPherson, among others, contributed one chart, “The Cats” (which perfectly describes the quintet as a whole), and co–wrote with Vanek the bluesy “Where Can We Meet?” Bassist Halt composed the moody opener, “Last Night,” and the boppish title selection (on which he also renders an intrepid solo). The group also performs two Jazz standards (Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes,” Joe Henderson’s “Recordame”) and three others from the great American songbook (“You and the Night and the Music,” “Just in Time,” “The Nearness of You”). The quintet is present on most numbers, but the winsome ballad “Soul Eyes” is a graceful vehicle for Vanek and Porter, and Strong’s full–bodied guitar is showcased with the rhythm section only on “Just in Time.” Vanek shows more than a little of the Henderson influence throughout, especially on Joe’s “Recordame.” Engstrom’s flugel (with Strong comping softly behind him) showers warmth and charm on “The Nearness of You,” which Jazz enthusiasts will remember fondly from Sarah Vaughan’s classic interpretation. The members of the Reno Jazz Quintet carry impressive Jazz credentials, which they assuredly live up to on this exemplary studio date.
Track listing: Last Light; You and the Night and the Music; The Cats; Where Can We Meet?; Soul Eyes; Just in Time; Recordame; Contemplation; The Nearness of You (58:53).
Larry Engstrom, trumpet, flugelhorn; Francis Vanek, tenor sax; Clint Strong, guitar; Randy Porter, piano; Hans Halt, bass; Andy Heglund, drums.