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Even though it doesn’t generate a whole lot of heat before the high–stepping finale, this largely easygoing and often pensive third album (at least, I think it’s the third) by the University of Texas Jazz Orchestra is in most respects its best effort to date. Ensemble work is bright and secure, soloists spry and resourceful, choice of material — much of it composed and / or arranged by UT students or alumni — uncommon but for the most part admirable. For lovers of the alto saxophone Blue Moon is a special feast for the ears with luminous solos by Paul Haar (“The End of a Love Affair”), Mace Hibbard (“Old Country,” Greg Moore’s “Tubs of Slaw,” “Music for a Rolling Doughnut,” “Hora Decubitis”) and special guest Gary Foster (Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love,” in a sparkling arrangement by Jack Cooper). “Doughnut,” written and arranged by guiarist John Kregor, is performed by the smaller (eight–member) Alternative Improvisation Music Ensemble (AIME), all other numbers by the Jazz orchestra. “Doughnut,” “Everything I Love” and Paul McKee’s “Old Country” were recorded in concert. The flag–waving closer alluded to earlier is Charles Mingus’ fiery “Decubitis,” nicely arranged by the orchestra’s director, Jeff Hellmer. Tenor Paul White, who wrote and arranged “Tofu Scrambler,” takes a slashing solo on “Decubitis,” as do Hibbard, trombonist Jerome Smith, tenor Dave Renter and trumpeter Rick White. Pianist Steven Termini is a standout on “Old Country,“ “Dougnut” and his own composition, “Once in a Blue Moon,” while Kregor, flugel Andy Cheetham and pianist Steven Snyder shine on Cooper’s “Tom Sails Away,” adapted from a work by classical composer Charles Ives (with perhaps a passing nod toward Mr. Harrell). It’s an ambitious program and one that usually works, thanks to the impressive talents of the UT students and faculty (and their celebrated guest, L.A.–based Gary Foster). It has become a rule of thumb that university Jazz ensembles keep getting better and better, and the UT Jazz Orchestra is certainly no exception to the rule.
Contact:Jeff Hellmer, School of Music, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712. Phone 512–471–0744; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Listing: Old Country; Once in a Blue Moon; Tom Sails Away; Tubs of Slaw; The End of a Love Affair; Music for a Rolling Doughnut; Tofu Scrambler; Everything I Love; Hora Decubitus (66:29).
Personnel: Jeff Hellmer, music director; Mace Hibbard, William Ferguson, Paul G. White, Dave Renter, David Box, Paul Haar, Colin Mason, reeds; Chip Crotts, Andy Cheetham, Warren Ealy, Rick White, trumpet; Jerome Smith, Claudio Gariazzo, Thomas Lee, Wayne Myers, Bill Mann, Mike Hoffer, trombone; Steven Snyder, Steven Termini, piano; John Kregor, guitar; Henry Lugo, bass; David Glover, Eric Middleton, drums; Lisa Nicol, percussion. Guest soloist Gary Foster, alto saxophone (