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Big Band Caravan

Gordon Goodwin / DePaul University / Wayne Bergeron / South Florida Jazz Orchestra

By Published: December 26, 2008
The large ensemble plays two numbers associated with Rich's splendid big band from the 1960s, the bustling title selection and dynamic opener, "Away We Go." Also on the likable menu are a well-drawn twelve-minute medley from Lerner and Loewe's Broadway blockbuster, My Fair Lady (with Derrick showcased on "The Street Where You Live"), the ardent "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, Richard Rodgers' evocative "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" from another Broadway musical, On Your Toes, and a blues-funk original by Derrick, "In Stride."

The quintet is bright and focused on Neal Hefti's "Cute," Juan Tizol's "Caravan," Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" (in the original Max Roach/Clifford Brown arrangement, as is "Caravan"), Caldwell's lively "Me Too" and Derrick's forceful "Conquest." Ross unlimbers a muscular tenor on four tracks, and an incisive soprano on "Blue Rondo," while his flute and Mustafa's muted trumpet are entirely sympatico on "Cute." Mustafa plays flugel on "Blue Rondo" and "Me Too." Caldwell has ample room to solo and never displeases.

The larger ensemble boast a number of engaging soloists including Ross, trumpeter Chris LaBarbera, tenors Ed Maina and Jim Hayward, trombonists John Kricker and Dante Luciani (featured on "Summertime"), baritone Randy Emerick ("The Beat Goes On"), pianist Mike Levine, guitarist Lindsey Blair and bassist Colon who blends with Derrick, Levine and Blair to comprise a splendid rhythm section. Easily recommended to anyone who appreciates a taut and swinging contemporary big band (and quintet).

Drake University Jazz Ensemble One

Across the Pond...

Sea Breeze Vista



The Drake University Jazz Ensemble, situated squarely in America's heartland (Des Moines, IA) has spread its wings under director Alf Classen and performed at a number of European festivals (Montreux, Vienne, Brienz) during the past few years. Although recorded at the ensemble's on-campus hangout, The Mainstay,Across the Pond pays homage to those overseas trips by recreating some of the numbers that charmed its European audiences.

The album opens in a funky Latin vein with Gordon Goodwin's evocative "Mueva los Huesos," then flexes its collective muscle on Don Menza's well-named "Groovin' Hard" before slowing the pace on Bob Washut's "Reverend Jack," a feature for alto saxophonist David Bohl and guitarist Andrew Kem. Frank Mantooth's lyrical "Louie Shuffle," listed third in the booklet but correctly on the tray, actually follows Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" (smartly arranged in a casual mode by Mike Abene) and precedes Goodwin's zany, tongue-in-cheek "Hunting Wabbits," which is dedicated to those memorable stars of classic Warner Brothers cartoons, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and introduces unison saxophones and trombones sans rhythm leading to a number of handsome solos and a typically off-center Goodwin finish.

Completing the expansive, well-played program are the Billy Strayhorn ballad "Chelsea Bridge" (again showcasing Bohl's eloquent alto), Phil Wilson's irrepressibly swinging "Basically Blues," Matt Harris' brassy "Los Brujos de Cisano" and Classen's throbbing "Spirit of New Orleans." Half of the ten selections are performed by the 2006 ensemble, the others by Drake's 2007 band. That doesn't make any difference, as both groups are tight and well-rehearsed and include a number of first-rate soloists. Bohl is a standout, as are Kem, guitarist Josh Gorman, tenor Mark Strand, baritone Eric Neeley, trumpeters Andy Poppen and Ben Tillus, trombonist Andy Bobka, pianist Marcus Cavanaugh and drummers Mark Grimm and Brian Ruggle.

Based on this splendid session, it's easy to understand why the Drake University ensemble was so well-received during its recent visits to Europe. At home or away, Classen's charges acquit themselves with impressive proficiency and self-assurance.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble 1

Buleria, Solea, y Rumba

Sea Breeze Vista



Buleria, Solea y Rumba, the twelfth album by the splendid University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble 1, is not, as its title may suggest, an array of Latin jazz but a smorgasbord of styles from straight-ahead and post-bop to unabashed swing, New Orleans revelry and contemporary sophistication (with Latin rhythms represented by Maria Schneider's lengthy titular composition).

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