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Cal State Los Angeles Jazz Orchesta and Afro-Latin Ensemble: The Unlikely Event (2005)

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This is the second album I've reviewed in less than a month with the title The Unlikely Event. What's more, both were recorded by college ensembles (the other was the University of Northern Iowa), and on both, the "Event" is the album's second track. How unlikely is that? I'll leave it in your hands.

The Cal State Los Angeles Orchestra, directed by Jeff Benedict, actually premiered "The Unlikely Event,"? whose author, Chris Merz, directs the UNI Jazz Ensemble, in May 2001. Merz then returned to Northern Iowa and recorded the chart with his own ensemble. Coincidence resolved, along with the rationale behind its name, which Benedict affirms in the liner notes "refers to the canned announcement one often hears on an airline flight crossing the great plains of America: 'In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat belt can be used as a flotation device.'..."?

So much for similarities. The only other one I can unearth is that the CSLA and UNI ensembles are both first-class; neither Benedict nor Merz would have it any other way. The album in hand is evenly divided between Benedict's Jazz Orchestra and the CSLA Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, another splendid group directed by Paul De Castro.

The orchestra, which peforms admirably throughout, opens with Thad Jones' snappy "Three in One,"? moves on to "The Unlikely Event,"? nails Oliver Nelson's moving ballad "I Hope in Time a Change Will Come,"? and closes with its least persuasive number, Bob Mintzer's "San Juan Shuffle."? Soloists aren't listed, but Benedict writes that trumpeter Rick Espinoza and baritone Geena Biondi are heard on "Three and One,"? drummer Kennieth Alexander on "San Juan Shuffle"? (with an unnamed trombonist).

The Afro-Latin ensemble is suitably playful and passionate, prancing through a quartet of rhythmic motifs, the first of which, "Bilongo,"? features Latin percussion instructor Bob Fernandez as lead singer. The program includes a cha-cha, "La Enganadora,"? and Cuban son, "Francisco Guayabal."? Everything is bright and well-built, as is the album as a whole.

Track Listing: Three and One; The Unlikely Event; I Hope in Time a Change Will Come; San Juan Shuffle; Bilongo; Presente y Pasado; La Engaadora; Francisco Guayabal (46:17).

Personnel: Jazz Orchestra -- Jeff Benedict, director; Gordon Greenley, alto, soprano sax; Garson Olivieri, alto sax, flute; Marco Zaragoza, Jesus Meza, tenor sax, clarinet; Geena Biondi, Alex Hernandez, baritone sax; Thea King, flute; Frank Rico, Rick Espinoza, Leo Sakomoto, Mike Lim, trumpet; Otto Granillo, Wade Moore, Shannon Wong, trombone; Brennan England, bass trombone; Abraham Vasquez, guitar; George Woo, piano; Tim Newkirk, bass; Kennieth Alexander, drums. Afro-Latin Ensemble -- Paul De Castro, director; Alfredo Magaa, flute; Oscar Hernandez, alto sax; Gordon Greenley, tenor sax; Francisco Martinez, baritone sax; Fernando Almader, Douglas Jackson, trumpet; Dennis Jirn, trombone; Carlos Kuhlmann, trs; Paulito Pupi, piano; Chris Castoreno, Daisuke Takahashi, bass; Andrea Giacomini, Andres Renteria, Marc Caliboso, percussion; Tamara Aguilar, Alex Chavarria, Gaby Elkassabany, vocals.

Style: Big Band


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