The University of North Texas, home to the country's oldest, most honored and, many would say, explicitly outstanding Jazz Studies program, has a number of topnotch big bands in the stable, each of which is named after its specific rehearsal time. While the One O'Clock Lab Band, which has been recorded most often, is best known among them, the distance between the top two or three is so slender as to be immaterial. Hard on the heels of the One O'Clock's most recent album, Lab 2013, comes this kindred gem from the Two O'Clock Band, which is so decisively proficient the average listener may be tempted to move the hands of the clock back one hour.
Under Jay Saunders' able direction, the ensemble sets everything alight, from Paul McKee
's emphatic "Little Gus" to Booker T. Jones' zesty "Green Onions," the last arranged by One O'Clock Band alum (and current Two O'Clock Band member) Drew Zaremba who also arranged Chick Corea's gossamer "Windows" and his own playful "Sink, Sank, Swunk" (co-written with Brian Ward). Another original, the incendiary "Chris Is How We Drew It" (a.k.a. "Sweet Georgia Brown") was written for tenors Zaremba and Chris Reardon by Tyler Mire
, a mainstay through 2012 in the One O'Clock Band's trumpet section who now leads his own large ensemble. Mire's band recently released its excellent debut album, Enter the Atmosph-Mire, on which Zaremba and Reardon rephrase their electrifying duel on "Chris."
Rounding out the tantalizing program are jazz themes by Dave Zoller
) and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (whose captivating chart by Jenny Kellogg spotlights the trombone section). Rich DeRosa arranged Shorter's "Infant Eyes" and Silver's "Song for My Father," the last featuring the band's talented pianist, Sergio Pamies, alto Alex Hahn, trombonist Matt Corrigan and drummer Nolan Byrd. Reardon and Niels Rosendahl are the dueling tenors on "Chris Is How We Drew It," while Reardon is front and center on Florence's warm and colorful "Soundsketch" and shares the spotlight with Zaremba (on alto), Byrd, bassist Jake Greenberg and trumpeters John Hallman and Ally Hany on "Green Onions," recorded at the 2013 Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. Zoller's tasteful "Café au Lait" (showcasing Rosendahl) is another high mark.
Advice to the One O'Clock Lab Band: don't look over your shoulder. There's a juggernaut hovering in the wings, and it may be gaining ground.
Track Listing: Little Gus; Café au Lait; Infant Eyes; Chris Is How We Drew It; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Windows; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Sink, Sank, Swunk; Song for My Father; A Soundsketch; Green Onions (live).
Personnel: Jay Saunders: director; Jake Boldman: trumpet; Andy Cresap: trumpet; Ransom Miller: trumpet; John Hallman: trumpet; Ally Hany: trumpet; Drew Zaremba, Alex Hahn, Chris Reardon, Niels Rosendahl, Kelsey Pickford: saxophones; Zach Steele: trombone; Matt Corrigan: trombone; Seth Weaver: trombone; Dan Marion: trombone; Chris Sharpe: trombone; Sergio Pamies: piano; Horace Bray: guitar; Jake Greenburg: bass; Nolan Byrd: drums; Lupe Barrera: percussion.