Hard as it may be to believe, this is the twenty-third annual "Lab" album produced by UNT's preeminent One O'Clock Lab Band during Neil Slater's tenure as director, one for each year he has been at the helm. Even harder to accept is that the albums keep getting better with each passing year; Lab 2004 is a corker from start to finish, perhaps one of the finest the band has ever released. (But we say that every year, don't we?)
In our fast-paced, rapidly changing world, one thing the UNT Jazz Studies program has going for it is consistency. In its 57-year history, there have been only three directorsGene Hall (1947-58), Leon Breeden (1959-80) and Slater (1981 to present). A second asset is the continuing ability to draw into its orbit many of the finest young musicians in the country, as you will hear on this spectacular sample of their early-blooming expertise. Rather than bore you with more of my words of praise, I'll step aside for a moment so you can hear from someone who studied under Hall and Breeden at UNT and has appeared as a guest artist with Slater's ensembles. Trumpeter Marvin Stamm writes in the liner notes for Lab 2004 :
"This is not just a loud, boisterous big band; it can function like a small ensemble or like a big orchestra or a fat-sounding big band. The group fully explores all the musical and dynamic colors of the spectrum. The original writing is wonderfuland quite different. The compositions contain long-lined melodic writing that allows the band to display its great and varied stylistic flexibility in approaching the demands each composer makes upon it. The writing fully exhibits this band in all its glory."?
Thanks for the perceptive overview, Marvin. More specifically, the album encompasses two originals by Slater ("Places,"? "Look"?), two more by baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington ("Orion,"? "Cobblestone Road"?), one each by pianist Ji Young Lee ("AWJ"?), guitarist Kevin Brunkhorst ("Girls in the Pool"?) and trombonist Carl Murr ("A Study Was Done"?), and three standardsRay Noble's "Cherokee"? (arranged by Bill Holman), "A Beautiful Friendship"? (arranged by Lyle Mays and dedicated to the late Carl Fontana) and the late Frank Mantooth's classic arrangement of "Young and Foolish."?
Simply put, everything falls precisely into place, leaving no room for censure of the ensemble or its cadre of commendable soloists, who include Lee (breathtaking on "Young and Foolish"), Brunkhorst, Lington, altos Jonathan Beckett (featured on "Cherokee"?) and Matt Sawyer, tenors Clay Pritchard and Brad Danho, trumpeters James Davis and Ken Edwards, bassist Jeffrey Eckels and drummer Andrew Fockel. Lead trumpeter Jamie Hovorka proves his mettle on "Young and Foolish"? and everywhere else. Another luxurious ride courtesy of the Rolls Royce of university-level jazz ensembles.
Track Listing: AWJ; Cherokee; Places; Terracotta; A Beautiful Friendship; Look; Orion; Girls in the Pool; Cobblestone Road; A Study Was Done; Young and Foolish (67:51).
Personnel: Neil Slater, director; Jamie Hovorka, Jason Levi, Ken McGill, Ken Edwards, James Davis, trumpet; Jonathan Beckett, Matt Sawyer, Clay Pritchard, Brad Danho, Aaron Lington, reeds; Carl Murr, David Winslow, Scott Agster, trombone; Brian Honsberger, Dan West, bass trombone; Ji Young Lee, piano; Kevin Brunkhorst, guitar; Jeffry Eckels, bass; Andrew Fockel, drums.