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Various Artists: New School University Jazz Program 2002/2003 (2004)

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In two decades, the New School has become a veritable musical institution. Regularly graduating first-rate musicians under the tutelage of some of the greatest living artists, it continues successfully to pump out one amazing class after another. This sampler is a superb cross section of that fine up-and-coming, and in some cases arrived, talent.

Drummer Nick Collins leads a sextet, adding syncopated colorful licks around the upbeat swinging tempo of his “Ginza Samba.” While maintaining the ferocious beat, keeping time on ride cymbal, his percussive sense of improvising around that time and under each soloist is commendable. The heads are performed by a tight tenor-trumpet lead, anchored by teacher/saxophonist George Garzone, exemplar of the fine faculty New School has maintained over the years.

Portuguese guitarist Alfonso Pais’ “Momentum” features the second guitar of Peter Bernstein, who with Pais successfully replicates Pat Martino in sound, approach, composition, and instrumentation (for reference, check out those early timeless Martino sides with second guitarist Bobby Rose from the late ‘60s, Baiyina, and early ‘70s, Footprints ). Martino’s characteristic dark single note lines are echoed quite convincingly here.

Recently named as two of the most talented musicians under 25 in the country by Downbeat, one half of the twin-ship Strickland, saxophonist Marcus (his brother drummer EJ) is paired off with one of the titans on tenor, Joe Lovano. “Miss Etna” showcases a classic battle of the horns with pianist Robert Glasper, also garnering much deserved attention, and drummer Otis Brown III.

The lovely a capella opening of “Beautiful Love,” no doubt inspired by Abbey Lincoln, features lead vocalist Valerie Troutt, who has a schooled yet natural feel for interpretation. It is Brooklyn’s Vickie Natale, however, who is the New School jewel of this sampler. Yet another New School success story, last year she won Star Search’s “Battle of the Champions Adult Singer” and was awarded a substantial three-figure prize and a Sony recording contract. She brings to this compilation a nitty-gritty delivery of Aretha’s “Dr. Feelgood” with the backing of legendary pianist and faculty member Junior Mance.

Each year’s cast of New School graduates offers a preview of what to expect in the jazz world—on radio, in print, and in the clubs. We anxiously look forward to next year's sampler!

This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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