Jason Hainsworth Big Band / DePaul University Jazz Ensemble / Big Band Ritmo Sinfonica Citta di Verona / Howard University Jazz Ensemble
The opening movement, "Arrival," one of the two briefest at 5:16 ("Departure" runs 5:46), evolves slowly, almost esoterically, with various nature-like sounds preceding its Mingus-inspired theme and plain-spoken solo by trombonist Brian Drye that evolve seamlessly into "Cycle of Life," another placid theme encompassing a spiraling solo by either Ben Kono or Jason Rigby on clarinet and a group discourse by Jentsch, tenor Mike McGinnis, trumpeter Mike Kaupa and trombonist Jacob Garchik. Again, the special effects, devised, one assumes, to exemplify the sounds of nature, are ever-present.
"Home and Away" offers basically more of the same, its graceful melody ushered in by the rhythm section to enhance compliant solos by Rigby (on alto) and trumpeters Kaupa and John Carlson. "Old Folks Song" saunters along in a similarly temperate vein behind apposite statements by Jentsch, Kaupa and drummer John Mettam. "Route 666," as noted, generates some heat to inflame solos by Jentsch, Kaupa and Dan Willis' strident tenor before Jentsch renews the Mingus theme on "Departure," once again showcasing Drye's supple trombone, this time muted.
Even though coherent and well-planned, Jentsch's Cycles Suite may be "suiter" to some ears than to others, more than likely to those who are indispensably attuned to contemporary as opposed to customary big-band Jazz. It is recommended warmly to them, while those who relish Basie, Kenton, Herman and their kindred are advised to look elsewhere.
The Oster / Welker Jazz Alliance
Shining Hour backed uneasily into this space in spite of the fact that it isn't really a big-band session. Jeff Oster, who sings on every number, is backed by groups ranging in size from tentet to trio (and by guitarist Ron Vincent alone on "Young and Foolish") with all the arrangements by trumpeter Peter Welker.
The result is on the whole pleasant enough but this listener found himself paying more heed to the charts and soloists than to Oster, not an auspicious sign for what is essentially a vocal showcase. That's not to imply that Oster is less than capable; the stumbling block, to these ears, is that he is no more than that. Scott Yanow, in his liner notes, says Oster's voice "has been compared to Mel Torme, and I can hear a bit of Chet Baker in his sound." I can hear neither. His amiable tenor sounds entirely like Jeff Oster, as does his phrasing. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The choice of material is generally pleasing, with tracks 7-10 comprising four of this reviewer's best-loved songs: "Young and Foolish," "Speak Low," "My Shining Hour" and "My Foolish Heart." Dizzy's "Groovin' High" and Toots Thielemans' "Bluesette" are also admirable, easily outdistancing Ronnell Bright's "Sweet Pumpkin," Leon Russell's "This Masquerade" and Oster's lone original, "Bean" (sans lyric, only scat).
In the end, however, it is Welker's evocative charts that earn one's unreserved applause, along with eloquent solos by altos Andrew Speight, Jim Rothermel and Fred Lipsius (who adds a handsome piano solo on "My Foolish Heart"); tenors Rob Roth, Scott Petersen and Mel Martin; pianists Lipsius, Matt Clark and Dave Mathews; guitarist Vincent, bassist Chris Amberger and drummer Kevin Dillon. Welker solos once, on flugelhorn, on Johnny Mandel's "A Time for Love." Others may find Oster's vocals more congenial, in which case they would certainly deem this a Shining Hour worth spending in his company.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: I Concentrate on You; It's Right There; When I Fall in Love; Alone Together; Matriarch; Marchienne; Something Stolen, Something Blue.
Personnel: Jason Hainsworth: composer, arranger, conductor, tenor sax; Tanya Darby, Dave Smith, Chris Winans, Alex Nguyen: trumpet; Thomas Barber: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sharel Cassity, Richard Miller: alto sax, flute; Peter Reardon Anderson, Will Reardon Anderson: tenor sax; Paul Nedzela, Frank Basile: baritone sax; Michael Dease, Joe McDonough, Robert Edwards: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Roger Lent: piano; Linda Oh: bass; Phil Stewart: drums. Special guests: Claudio Roditi: trumpet and flugelhorn (2, 4); Jon Irabagon: tenor sax (2).
Tracks: A Felicidade; Every Day I Have the Blues; Desafinado; Lady Bird; Lester Left Town; Via Lyon; Wrong Place, Wrong Time; Goodbye, Mr. Evans; Boplicity; Next Season.