The Cal State-Hayward Jazz Ensemble: Excursions (2002)
Disc A opens with Eshelman’s groovy “On the Line,” which introduces alto Jesse Levit and embodies a meaty statement by trombonist Brandon Au. Pianist Colin Hogan is featured on bassist Dan Parenti’s handsome tone poem, “Serene,” which precedes the first of Geiger’s impressive compositions: the richly textured (and freely swinging) “Excursions” (solos by Geiger, Levit, trumpeter Mike Olmos, Hogan on Fender Rhodes), and Lemstrom’s mouth-watering “Gravy,” on which Olmos, tenor saxophonist Ben Benavides and drummer Brian Sears are the most conspicuous diners. The soloists on Coartney’s expansive “Concerto” are Levit (“Turmoil”), flutist Chad Davis and Hogan, again on Fender Rhodes (“Inner Peace”), Olmos and guitarist Jason Countryman (“Resolution”).
Geiger goes Latin on “This,” a frisky cha-cha that ushers in Disc B on a carefree note with upbeat solos by Davis, Olmos and drummer Brian Fishler. Marcus Stephens’ leisurely “Vagabond” provides blowing room for his expressive tenor, Parenti’s fretless bass and Jesse Micek’s flashing piano, while Benavides’ sultry tenor is showcased on dazzling charts by Eshelman (“America”) and faculty member Doug Beavers (“You Know I Care”). Lemstrom’s “When You’re Around I Get the Blues,” another mind-blowing chart, accommodates ardent solos by Micek, Levit and Olmos, while McNeely’s typically strenuous “Dreamers” summons forth spirited commentary by the ensemble, pianist Hogan and trumpeter Olmos.
Bracing big–band Jazz on a grand scale, wonderfully performed by one of the country’s foremost university-level programs. Who could ask for anything more? Well, if there’s one small quibble, it is that all but a few bars of Excursions could have been housed on a single CD. But as it’s not a commercial enterprise, that’s really unimportant. It’s the music that counts, and CSU-Hayward is never less than awesome in that area.
Track Listing: Disc A
Personnel: Dave Eshelman, Gary Coartney (5A), Doug Beavers (3B), conductors; Jesse Levit, alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Chad Davis, alto, soprano sax, flute, alto flute; Ben Benavides, tenor, soprano sax, alto flute, clarinet; Marcus Stephens, tenor sax, piccolo flute, clarinet; Greg Conway, baritone sax, bass clarinet, B
Record Label: CSUH
Style: Big Band