Phil Kelly and the NW Prevailing Winds; Eric Essix and the Night Flight Big Band; University of North Texas Two O'Clock Lab Band
Duke is clearly more comfortable on the explicitly Latin tunes, singing with abandon; there are times, on the other hand, when she seems less than at ease on the English numbers, especially Garner's "Misty" and Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love." When that happens, her experience and charisma combine to carry her through. Duke sings "That Old Black Magic" in Spanish. She is aided and abetted on "La Peleona" by guest vocalist Jose Alberto "El Canario," and by a background chorus on "Myrta Silvia's [three-part] Medley" and Wonder's "'Til You Come Back to Me."
While the orchestra remains for the most part unassuming, there are brief yet bracing solos along the way by Bobby Porcelli (alto sax, flute), Mitch Frohman (tenor sax, flute), trombonist Sam Burtis, trumpeter John Walsh and conguero George Delgado. Duke's personal appearance (sultry stare, raven hair crowned with saffron) mirrors her vocal style: bold and uninhibited. Coupled with the intrepid Puente orchestra, it makes for a near-perfect match.
University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One, 2008-2009
It took a while to warm to this latest recording by the University of Northern Iowa's Jazz Band One, even though Chris Merz is an admirable director and the ensemble itself is beyond reproach. Perhaps that's because several of the nine selections (seven originals) lean more toward strange than wonderful; or it could be that swinging seems often to be more an afterthought than an essential component on this otherwise burnished concert / studio date.
Whatever the reason, it's necessary to listen carefully to ascertain Merz's game plan, which apparently is to challenge the band (and the listener) with music that is collaterally intricate and accessible. It doesn't always work, but there are more than a few moments when it does, and these are enough to make the enterprise worth considering. Some numbers unveil a Charles Mingus-like character, while others bring to mind images of Gil Evans or his protégé, Maria Schneider. "Stomp Clap," written by trumpeter Ari Micich, has an unequivocal New Orleans vibe. Trombonist / pianist Mike Conrad composed the wistful "Solace in Searching," flautist Easton Stuard (who mans the piano on David Berkman's "Knots"), the prismatic title selection.
"Knots," "Strange Wonderful," Dan Cavanagh's polyrhythmic "Gozar" and the standard "All of Me" are performed in concert, the others in the UNI studio. Courtney Beadel's "Revolution," Rick Hirsch's "Catch Me If You Can" and Herbie Hancock's jazz classic, "Dolphin Dance," round out the program. Among the soloists, Stuard (flute) is a standout on "Strange Wonderful" and "Stomp Clap " as is Conrad (piano) on "Solace." Others who give it the college try are saxophonists Robert Espe and Tim Sanders, drummer Corey McBride, and trombonists Chris Walck and Andrew Thoreen. Guitarist Billy LeGrand is discordant and irksome on "Revolution," mellow and charming on "Dolphin Dance."
Whatever your stance toward the music, it must be conceded that Merz has continued the tradition of excellence at UNI that was established by his predecessor, Bob Washutand that Strange Wonderful is a suitable name for this wide-ranging endeavor by the Class of 2008-09.
Tracks and Personnel
Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles
Tracks: Play Tonic Budz; Limehouse Blues; Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles; Ewe Doo on Bubbas Shoux; Rainshadow; Note-o-Riot-ee; B D Bunz; Estos Frijoles Causa Me Falta Pasar a Los Vientos; Grover; Top Fuel Pete vs. the Trav-ski.
Personnel: Phil Kelly: leader, composer, arranger; Brad Allison, Paul Baron, Jay Thomas, Vern Sielert: trumpet; Jerry Dodgion: alto sax; Travis Ranney: alto, tenor, soprano sax; Pete Christlieb, Jim Coile: tenor sax; Pete Brewer: tenor, baritone sax, clarinet; Randy Lee: tenor sax, flute; Bill Ramsay: baritone sax; Gary Shutes, Dan Marcus, Dave Marriott: trombone; Nelson Bell: bass trombone, tuba; John Hansen, Pat Coil: keyboards; Grant Geissman: guitar; Dave Captein: acoustic, electric bass; Gary Hobbs: drums; John Bryant, Ron Snyder: percussion; Chris Alpier: string programming.
Tracks: Ode to Billy Joe; Speedball; Modaji; Come Rain or Come Shine; Superblue; Sundown; Rainy Night in Georgia; Last Call.
Personnel: Mart Avant: founder, director, trumpet, flugelhorn; Chip Crotts, John Taylor, Bo Berry, Tim Brannan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sam Williams, Gary Wheat, Kim Bain: alto sax; Rich Daviston, Steve Black, Dave Amaral: tenor sax; Steve Collins: baritone sax; Bob Black, Chad Fisher, Jim Moeller, Will Shaw, Demondrae Thurman: trombone; Coleman Woodson Jr., : piano, electric piano; Ray Reach: piano, Hammond B3 organ; Thomas Furlough, Chris Wendle: bass; Steve Ramos: drums; John Nuckols: percussion; Annie McClendon: vocals. Guest artist: Lou Marini (3): soprano sax.