The Temple Jazz Orchestra, which began life about fifteen years ago as a part of the Jazz Studies program at Temple College, has evolved into a professional ensemble whose members include a number of the best big band musicians and educators in central Texas. The TJO was founded by its current director, Tom Fairlie, who triples as director/conductor of the Temple Symphony Orchestra and division director of Fine Arts at Temple College.
This is the TJO's third album. Unlike the others, which mixed standards with jazz originals by such stalwarts as Tom Kubis, Gordon Goodwin, Matt Catingub and Sammy Nestico, it is devoted for the most part to compositions and/or arrangements by members of the band. Trumpeter Lee "Sparky Thomason wrote two ("It Is Time, "Ludis Blues ), pianist Dave Wild two more ("Catch the Early Trane, "Your Mileage May Vary ). The ensemble's second pianist, Ben Irom, composed "A Nod to Cee Cee and arranged Michael Brecker's "African Skies, while trumpeter Tim Cates arranged Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar. David Bandman, a euphonium player and music arranger with the US Air Force Ceremonial Brass in DC, penned the opening number, "Bohica, saxophonist Paul White from nearby Austin the ambling "Third Ear.
The word that springs to mind when listening to the album is competent. On the one hand, everyone plays well enough to pass muster; on the other, there's nothing here that leaps out and grabs you. Much of the fire and energy that animated the band's previous concert performance/album with guest trombonist Bill Watrous is missing. And when searching for a reason, one has to single out, among other things, the choice of material, which is as a rule decent but more limp than electrifying.
It's not until "Ludis Blues that one senses the adrenaline flowing. The soloists seem uninspired, with the possible exceptions of soprano Colin Mason ("Cee Cee ) and pianist Iroms ("African Suite"). Sound quality is an unremitting problem; the album's cavernous concert-hall ambiance isn't charitable to anyone, least of all drummer Michael Morris. The trumpet section, a strong point in the past, strives to furnish some heat but may as well have been on vacation.
When all the pieces are in place, the TJO is an admirable regional ensemble, and I'm sorry I can't be as upbeat about its latest album as I was the first two. If you'd like to hear the orchestra in better form, I'd recommend either (or both) of themLive, featuring Bill Watrous; and/or the TJO's debut, Soft Lights and Sweet Music.
Personnel: Tom Fairlie: director, percussion; Rob Sanders, Tim Cates, Denise Doyle, Byron Swann, Lee
Thomason: trumpet; Colin Mason: alto, tenor, soprano sax, flute; Tom Jones: alto sax, flute;
Greg Bashara: tenor sax, flute; Karen Batson: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Ray Sanchez: tenor
sax, clarinet; Frank Nelson: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Gary Smith, Keith Fraser, Gannon
Phillips: trombone; Brent Colwell, Brent Mathesen: bass trombone; Dave Wild, Benjamin Irom:
piano; Reese Liles: guitar; Vincent Bryce: bass; Michael Morris: drums, percussion.