Pointing Fingers... And Naming Names
The University of Missouri's flagship ensemble, the Concert Jazz Band, has studied and performed with a number of world-class professional musicians, most recently the Grammy Award-winning trombonist Robin Eubanks who stars on the band's third album, Hidden Agenda. Besides anchoring the 'bone section and soloing on most tracks, Eubanks wrote the opening and closing numbers, "Midtown" and "Global Citizen," both neatly arranged by the band's director, Arthur White, as was everything else including White's gregarious "Portrait of Art Blakey" (Eubanks is an alumnus of Blakey's Jazz Messengers) and Bob Sheppard's evocative title selection.
"Blakey" and "Citizen" are among the highlights of a congenial studio session that enfolds original compositions by Lynne Arriale ("Carry On"), Buddy Johnson ("Save Your Love for Me"), Scott Wendholt ("Her Allure"), Dewey Redman ("Boo Boo Doop"), Andy Narell ("Jenny's Room") and the George Gershwin evergreen, "Summertime." The band's pianist, Lizzie Fracica, doubles as vocalist on "Save Your Love" and "Summertime," offering passable readings of both songs. White vacates the podium to fashion tenor solos on "Midtown" and "Summertime," and is splendid on each. And even though Eubanks commands much of the solo space, and rightly so, there is room left for incisive statements from trumpeters Lexie Signor and Jason Mathews; saxophonists Zach Eldridge, Nassim Benchaabane, Justin Downs and Dirk Downing; trombonist David Witter, guitarist Sam Copeland and vibraphonist Nathan Smith. Three faculty members take part in the enterprise: pianist Tom Andes , who sits in on half a dozen numbers and solos on "Hidden Agenda"; trumpeter Allen Beeson ("Carry On") and bassist Kevin Hennessy ("Midtown").
It's clear that UM's Concert Jazz Band continues to move forward under White's able direction, and Hidden Agenda comprises more than an hour of admirable big-band jazz performed by a well-rehearsed ensemble and superb guest artist. In short, another winner from UM.
In Smaller Packages . . .
Peter Anderson & Will Anderson
While brothers and / or sisters making music together isn't uncommon, they rarely choose to play the same or similar instruments, let alone embrace a modest arena such as jazz in which to earn a living and make their voices heard. Even so, rare doesn't begin to describe the Anderson brothers, identical twins from Washington, DC, who have not only made jazz their music of choice but play it on the same instrument, the saxophone. Identical twins who both play saxophone? Until now that has been unheard of, in jazz or anywhere else. A question that springs to mind is, how do you tell saxophone-playing identical twins apart? Well, for one thing, Peter Anderson plays tenor sax, his brother Will, the alto. For anotherwell, actually, there is no "other," as in all verifiable respects, physical and philosophical, the Andersons are indeed equivalent, as is their knowledge of and love for mainstream jazz.. A second question, perhaps even more to the point, is how well do they play? The answer, in a word, is superbly, an appraisal that is repeatedly borne out on their aptly named debut recording, Correspondence.
Even before listening, the impression is that anyone who can enlist a rhythm section that includes pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Kenny Washington must have a lot to offer musically, as those gentlemen aren't inclined to play with any stray passers-by who wander into their neighborhood. The Anderson brothers readily affirm that their decision was sound. In other words, these brothers are no mere novelty act but world-class musicians who only coincidentally happen to be identical twins in their early twenties. As a result, Barron, Wolfe and Washington play with ease and composure, confident that they are supporting a duo of impressive front-liners who not only know the score but in fact wrote several of them (that are among the more tantalizing ingredients on the album). Barron, whose praises have been sung around the world for decades, seems especially happy to be here, playing with a buoyancy and ease of articulation that calls to mind Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan.