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The University of North Texas at Denton, home to the country’s oldest and most honored Jazz Studies program, has a number of excellent jazz ensembles, the cream of which is its One O’Clock Lab Band, here represented in the latest of a series of annual recordings that began nearly half a century ago. Since that time UNT has seen a large number of its alumni achieve notable careers as musicians and / or educators, and the young men who comprise director Neil Slater’s Lab 2002 do their best to safeguard that heritage.
As in years past the assignment isn’t an easy one, consisting of eight formidable original charts that include a touchstone by Slater (“This”) and two by members of the ensemble (pianist Neil Shah’s “Bouncin’,” baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington’s “Askew”). Joel Fountain wrote “Ouch!,” Rodrigo Villenueva “Keep Tryin’,” David Lown “Shoshin,” Stephen Smith “Last Expedition” and “Trepidation.” The band approaches each of them with comprehension and care, lending due consideration to color, dynamics, pacing and intonation. Brass and reeds are in lock-step while the rhythm section, enlivened by drummer Stockton Helbing and garnished by Shah, provides unremitting support throughout.
With everything else falling so cleanly into place, soloists have a wide comfort zone in which to operate and take full advantage, with provocative comments by Shah, Helbing and trombonist David Winslow on “Ouch!,” tenor Oscar Garza and trumpeter Matt Politano on “This,” Shah and flugel Kavan Manson on “Bouncin’,” guitarist Kevin Patton and soprano Tyler Summers on “Tryin’,” Manson, Helbing and Summers (alto) on “Expedition,” Patton and Garza on “Shoshin,” Shah and tenor David Fague on “Trepidation,” Lington and alto Drew Pitcher on “Askew.”
From performance to sound quality, everything is blue-chip. This is another in a long line of impressive albums by UNT’s superlative One O’Clock Lab Band.
Contact: North Texas Jazz, P.O. Box 305040, Denton, TX 76203.
Track Listing: Ouch!; This; Bouncin
Personnel: Neil Slater, director; Tyler Summers, Drew Pitcher, Oscar Garza, David Fague,
Aaron Lington, reeds; Dave Anderson, Matt Hitti, Zach Heffley, Matt Politano, Kavan
Manson, trumpet; Zac Giffel, David Winslow, Jeff Valentine, trombone; Grant
Dawson, Dan West, bass trombone; Neil Shah, piano; Kevin Patton, guitar; Adam
Thomas, bass; Stockton Helbing, drums.