The University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble: Self-Contained (2004)
Miles Osland, clever wordsmith that he is, knows that Self-Contained has several meanings, only some of which apply to this new album by his spit-shined University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble. One of those meanings, according to Webster, is “formal and reserved in manner,” which the music therein definitely is not. Another is “sufficient in itself,” which it assuredly is. As usual, the UK ensemble is called upon to perform an extensive assortment of music from ballads, blues and burners to sambas and tangos; and as usual, Osland’s students pass every exam with flying colors.
As anyone who has grappled with Gordon Goodwin’s elaborate charts is aware, they are no walk in the park. So naturally, Osland has chosen to open and close the album with two of Goodwin’s most demanding compositions, “Mama Llama Samba” and “Tholian Web.” The ensemble puts its shoulder to the wheel, and if there are any slip-ups they aren’t readily apparent. To raise the ante, half of the fourteen tracks were recorded in concert, including four-fifths of a tribute to tango master Astor Piazzolla, five of whose dynamic compositions have been revamped by arranger Fred Sturm. The exception is Piazzolla‘s “Mumuki,” a studio recording on which Osland solos (on alto sax) with fellow faculty members Dr. Scott Wright (clarinet) and Raleigh Dailey (piano).
Besides the songs already noted, the ensemble aces engaging originals by Neal Finn (“Back in the Sack, Jack”), Mike Tomaro (“A Sideward Glance”), Nick Lane (“Take That!”), Tom Kubis (“The Snake Was on His Way to a Gig...”), Alan Baylock (“Two Seconds to Midnight”) and Andy Weiner (“Gone, Gone from My Life”) and the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein standard “Bill” (erroneously credited to Cole Porter). The ensemble boasts a number of talented soloists, including altos Doug Drewek (“Mama Llama Samba”) and Rudy Brannon (“A Sideward Glance,” “Gone, Gone from My Life“), trumpeter John Tuck (Piazzolla’s “Michelangelo”) and trombonist Brad Kerns (“Two Seconds to Midnight”). Kerns and the trombone section earn high marks and extra credit on “Snake.” Another faculty member, the gifted trumpeter Mark Clodfelter, solos with trumpeter T.J. Tesh on “Bill,” with Osland (flute) and tenor Chris Barbee on Piazzolla’s “Libertango.”
As indicated, the ensemble is sleek and synchronous, the rhythm section—ably supervised by drummer Rob Rawlings—sharp and supportive. Under Osland’s direction, the UK ensemble has ascended to the top ranks among college-level bands. Self-Contained offers convincing evidence of why that is so.
Track Listing: Mama Llama Samba; Back in the Sack, Jack; A Sideward Glance; Take That!; La Camorra; Michelangelo; Mumuki; Tres Minutos con Realidad; Libertango; Bill; The Snake Was on His Way to a Gig . . .; Two Seconds to Midnight; Gone, Gone from My Life; Tholian Web (75:16).
Personnel: Miles Osland, director, soprano sax (7), flute (9), alto sax (14); Rudy Brannon, Brad Grable, Chris Strange, Chris Barbee, Ken Snow, Doug Drewek, reeds; T.J. Tesh, John Tuck, Matt Keys, Tracy Brooks, Dan Trammel, trumpet; Brad Kerns, Lee Allen, Valerie Evans, Clint Woltering, trombone; Seth Vatt, bass trombone; Matt Duncan, piano; Kevin Kehrberg, bass; Rob Rawlings, drums; James Landrum, mallets, percussion. Faculty guest soloists