Jazz at USM: Home Cookin' (2002)
The Jazz Studies program at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg has been around for more than thirty years, and it’s good to have recorded evidence of its progress under director Larry Panella’s guidance. The program is currently home to two big bands, six to eight combos in various shapes and sizes, and a salsa band. Home Cookin’ provides a useful overview, with five selections by the school’s Jazz Lab Band 1, three by the Jazz Sextet and two by the Jazz Quintet. Recording dates aren’t given, but Panella notes that the album represents “the culmination of several years of collecting recorded performances of various groups,” all of which, except for the quintet selections, were made on campus. It is dedicated to the late Dr. Norbert Carnovale who joined the USM faculty in 1962 as a teacher, later served as chairman of the Department of Music and director of the Music Industry program, and played a crucial role in the development of the school’s Doctorate of Musical Arts program.
Jazz Lab Band 1 opens the album with respectable readings of (the recently departed) Bob Berg’s funky “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” and the Basie hit, “April in Paris.” The group is heard again on Oliver Nelson’s arrangement of “Down by the Riverside,” saxophonist Don Lanphere’s “Lope of a Dolt” and Panella’s saucy “Mambo a la Mode” (dedicated to Ron Modell, longtime director of the award-winning Jazz ensemble at the University of Northern Illinois). For the quintet, Panella wrote “Telling the Truth” and co-authored the spirited “Welcome Home” with drummer Henrique Cavalcanti. The Jazz Sextet acquits itself well on bassist Alex Pershounin’s “A Hint Of . . .,” alto saxophonist Tom Luer’s boppish “Incoming!,” and especially Harold Arlen / Ted Koehler’s ballad “Ill Wind,” which features impressive muted trumpet work by David Rodriguez. Luer is a standout on alto (“Incoming!,” “April in Paris,” “A Hint Of . . .,” “Ill Wind”) or tenor (“Cadillac Club”), as is bassist Pershounin (“A Hint Of . . .,” “Cadillac Club,” “Incoming!”). Speaking of tenors, Panella enters the fray with a Bob Mintzer-style solo on “Mambo.” Trombonist Art Ruangtip adds pointed commentary there, as he does on “Cadillac Club,” “A Hint Of . . .” and “Ill Wind.”
Like most college-level bands these days, the USM ensembles are bright and well-rehearsed, the soloists alert and eager if not especially resourceful. Sound quality on Home Cookin’ is acceptable, playing time quite liberal. A generally pleasing snapshot of the USM Jazz Studies program.
Track Listing: Friday Night at the Cadillac Club; April in Paris; Telling the Truth; A Hint Of . . .; Down by the River Side; Ill Wind; Welcome Home; Lope of a Dolt; Incoming!; Mambo a la Mode (64:11).
Personnel: University of Southern Mississippi Jazz Lab Band 1 (1, 2, 8, 10) -- Tom Luer, Roderick Brogan, Jeremy Winstead, John Dowler, Jeremy Gott, reeds; Art Ruangtip, Gabe Krell, Brett Barrow, Mike Lormand, John King, trombone; Craig Cagle, Mike DeLaune, Chris Collinsworth, Dave Rodriguez, trumpet; Joe Banks, piano; John Bass, Darrell Havard, guitar; Alex Pershounin, bass; Tina Whitworth, drums; James
Record Label: USM
Style: Big Band