Yet another well–schooled assemblage of undergraduates whose “point of origin” is Reno, Nevada (for those who aren’t sure about the precise geographic coordinates — 39degrees32’25“N by 119degrees48’54“W — they are provided on the disc’s outer jacket). As this recording by the university’s Jazz Lab 1 dates from 1990, there’s no sound way in which to evaluate UNR’s music curriculum as it exists today. But based on the evidence presented here, around eight years ago the university from Nevada undeniably housed one of the foremost Jazz Studies programs in the country (rivaling even that of its monstrously well–endowed neighbor to the southeast, the University of Nevada–Las Vegas). The ensemble is exceedingly well–disciplined and swinging, and the resourceful soloists include trumpeters Englebright (electrifying on Frank Mantooth’s Latin–based bow to Bobby Shew, “If the Shew Fits”) and Titterington (“Estuary,” “SST,” Mantooth’s “For the Sake of Art”), alto Garaventa (Steve Owen’s “In the Tradition,” “SST”), trombonist Ingram (“Estuary,” which he also wrote, and “Miles Files”), tenor Mitchell (“In the Tradition,” “Miles Files,” “I Hear a Rhapsody,” “SST”) and pianist Hellsten (“Still Moment,” “Rhapsody,” “SST”). Vocalist Jo Lachner, who has a sunny voice and pleasing manner, is featured on “Deedles’ Blues” and “We’ll Be Together Again,” on both of which she receives excellent support from the band. Larry Engstrom, who was then directing the UNR ensemble (and perhaps still is), wrote the lovely Kenton–like ballad “Still Moment” (on which Gothenberg’s resonant bass provides an unerring compass for Hellsten and the ensemble), Scott Whitfield contributed “SST” (a thinly disguised “Sweet Georgia Brown”) and Bob Mintzer arranged the standard “I Hear a Rhapsody.” The band nails each of them cleanly, as it does the relatively less absobing rock–shuffle, “Miles Files.” Even eight years after the fact, the UNR Jazz Lab’s debut recording shines like a newly minted coin.
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Track listing: In the Tradition; For the Sake of Art; Estuary; Still Moment; If the Shew Fits; Miles Files; Deedles’ Blues; I Hear a Rhapsody; We’ll Be Together Again; SST (56:44).
Scott Englebright, George Wilcox, Rich Duston, Mike Oien, Dick Titterington, trumpets; Jim Garaventa, alto, soprano sax; Rayne Pilon, alto sax; Brian Mitchell, Jos