Things to Come, the first album by the University of North Florida's superlative Jazz Ensemble I under its new director, Keith Javors, easily affirms that UNF's long-standing tradition of excellence, established under the late Rich Matteson, is unequivocally alive and well. No shaky links in this chain; the ensemble is impressive on every number while the soloists extemporize with maturity and awareness beyond their years. As the saying goes, many bands can play fast enough to camouflage any slight missteps, but it's the ballads that separate the men from the boys, and UNF rises above the challenge on Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" and Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," the last recorded in concert (as was the finale, Dizzy Gillespie's rapid-fire "Things to Come"). Special mention should be made of drummer John Davis who does a creditable job sitting in for the late great Buddy Rich on the show-stopping "West Side Story" medley and staunchly ushers the rhythm section through its paces on every number. The album opens with a bona fide chops-buster, Thad Jones' "Cherry Juice," on which the ensemble plays with its usual self-assurance and Davis, pianist Scott Giddens, flugel Ray Callender and tenor Jeremy Siegel offer stormy solos. Giddens, tenor Juan Carlos Rollan and guitarist James Hogan are featured on Barry Greene's strapping "Viscous," Callender and Rollan on Brian VanArsdale's Kentonesque "Finding Home." Alto Kenny Hamilton is sublime on "The Peacocks" and solos again with trombonist Marius Dicpetris and trumpeter Kenny Lavender on Ornette Coleman's "The Blessing." Ray Brown's boppish "Ray's Idea" is another highlight with cogent statements by trombonist Clarence Hines, baritone Aaron Wilson and alto Dave Guidi. Siegel and Giddens share the spotlight on Clarence Hines' lyrical "While You Were Gone," Hines and Rollan (with Davis) on "West Side Story," Rollan and Hogan on "Bewitched," Rollan, Giddens and Callender on "Things to Come." Recording quality is first-rate on the studio tracks, inconsistent but tolerable on the numbers recorded in front of an understandably appreciative audience. If this album represents a preview of Things to Come from the UNF Jazz Ensemble, kindly reserve a space for me near the head of the line for whatever is to follow.
Contact:Dr. Keith Javors, Department of Music, University of North Florida, 4567 St. Johns Bluff Rd. South, Jacksonville, FL 32224; phone 904-620-2961; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site, www.unfjazzensemble.com
Track Listing: Cherry Juice; Viscous; Finding Home; The Peacocks; The Blessing; Ray's Idea; While You Were Gone; West Side Story medley; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Things to Come (58:22).
Personnel: Dr. Keith Javors, director; Kenny Hamilton, Dave Guidi, alto sax; Juan Carlos Rollan, Jeremy Siegel, tenor sax; Aaron Wilson, baritone sax; Jason Lichau, Kenny Lavender, Dave Bethea; Ray Callender, Carter Anderson, Max Matzen (9, 10), trumpet; Marius Dicpetris, Clarence Hines, Wes Boling, Cory Streger, trombone; Major Bailey, bass trombone; Scott Giddens, piano; James Hogan, guitar; Billy Thornton, bass; John Davis, drums.