Over the past five years the University of Colorado's Jazz Studies program has earned no less than 13 Student Music Awards from Down Beat magazine. I say earned because (a) the competition is gaining strength each year; and (b) this is one close-knit and hardworking group of undergrads, as one can readily verify on CU Over the Rainbow.
Of course, any disc that opens with Porter and closes with Gershwin merits extra credit from this impartial observer, especially when played with the kind of warmth and understanding that the UC ensemble brings to the table. The band eagerly devours Porter's ...read more
For its second album, and first under new director John Davis, the University of Colorado Jazz Ensemble 1 has chosen to focus on the music of pianist/composer Jim McNeely... no easy task, my friend. Four of the nine selections were written by McNeely, who is music director of the cutting-edge Vanguard and Stockholm Jazz Orchestras. To make navigating their treacherous shoals even more perilous, the ensemble performs three of them in concert, but if Davis’s students are working up a decent sweat it isn’t readily apparent. There aren’t any missed blocks or dropped passes in this scrimmage. McNeely is there ...read more
The Flatirons, I believe, are the mountains adjacent to Boulder, Colorado, and the 1997–98 editions of UC’s Jazz Ensemble 1 under director Greg Carroll strive earnestly to awaken them with this clamorous and colorful studio session that encompasses music composed by Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Bob Mintzer, Maria Schneider and Michael Brecker, among others. The ensemble is generally alert and responsive (although it makes hash of the “dixieland” passages in Bird’s “Donna Lee”), while soloists are as respectable as one usually encounters at the college level (with few prominent voices among them). Schneider (“Wyrgly,” “Coming About”), Mintzer (“Weird Blues”), Brecker ...read more