NSU Jazz Ensemble: Hour of the Pearl (2006)

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NSU Jazz Ensemble: Hour of the Pearl
NSU is Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. On Hour of the Pearl, the NSU Jazz Ensemble is reinforced on seven of nine selections by the splendid New York-based trumpeter Scott Wendholt, who lends appreciable charm to an otherwise unremarkable studio session.

That's not entirely the fault of director Walter White or his eager young students, who blow well enough much of the time but aren't well-served by a mediocre recording that emphasizes austerity and dryness at the expense of subtlety and presence, giving the enterprise a largely undeserved but no less unavoidable callow aura. The brass and reeds often seem more diffuse than integrated, the rhythm section suitably busy but generally uneven.

This is an unfortunate handicap, as it's clear the NSU ensemble has undertaken its assignment with due diligence and deserves a more accommodating arena in which to showcase its talent. But as nothing can be done about it at this point, best to appraise the various themes, five of which were written by members of the NSU Jazz Studies program, two by Wendholt, one each by White ("Unsaid ) and Paul Scea ("Nanga Def? ). They are for the most part agreeable albeit unpretentious tunes, trim launching pads from which to introduce the various soloists. Wendholt, as one would surmise, is far and away the best of them, but there are some useful statements by NSU's pianist Matt Bundy, guitarists Brent Deacon and Bradley Spears, alto saxophonist Tracy Patterson, tenor Cory Martin and trombonist Aaron Hollon.

Spears wrote "Cash and Prizes and "You Can't Get There from Here, Deacon "Title in Parentheses, Bundy "Old Souls, bassist Mike Schmidt "Got It in the Bag, Wendholt "Her Allure and the title selection. Although well short of indelible, none of them displeases, and the ensemble is reasonably well-rehearsed and attentive throughout.

Were it not for the second-rate acoustics, the enterprise would earn no less than a moderate endorsement, as it is on the whole productive. But decent sound quality is indispensable, and the NSU ensemble simply can't overpass that stumbling block. The result is a pretty good enterprise that surely could have been much better.

Track Listing: Title in Parentheses; Her Allure; Old Souls; You Cant Get There from Here; Cash and Prizes; Unsaid; Hour of the Pearl; Got It in the Bag; Nanga Def? (74:16).

Personnel: Walter White: composer, arranger, director, saxophone solo (7); Evan Mikish, Brandon Gilbert, Bobby Asher, Jacob Meryhew: trumpet; Tracy Patterson, Jared Rountree: alto saxophone; Cory Martin, Michelle Duke: tenor saxophone; Stephanie Verbos: baritone saxophone; Aaron Hollon, Bradley Spears, Matthew Booth: trombone; Danny Cole: bass trombone; Brent Deacon, Bradley Spears: guitar; Matt Bundy: piano; Justin Fulfer (1,2,6,9), Mike Schmidt (3-5,7,8): bass; Dixie Weathers (1-3,6,7), Nic Johnson (4,5,8,9): drums. Special guest: Scott Wendholt (1,2,5-9): trumpet.

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Big Band


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