Four of these seven works for Jazz orchestra were penned by the renowned tenor saxophonist and NYU artist in residence Frank Foster who played in and later led the Count Basie Orchestra and writes with the Count always in mind. Basie would have been quite comfortable playing any of Foster’s charts, as is the well–disciplined NYU Concert Jazz Ensemble. If the other three compositions are more troublesome it’s in no way apparent; these students have clearly mastered their homework and are ready to be tested. And tested they are by Dr. Tom Boras’ saucy “Just Can’t Sleep,” pianist Jim McNeely’s fugue–like “Swedish Thing” and Bob Parsons’ picturesque “Do Dway.” The result is passing grades all around, with brass and reeds in lock–step, the rhythm section loose and cooking, soloists sharp and self–reliant. To its credit, NYU doesn’t rely heavily on the artistry of trumpeter Brian Lynch, an experienced pro who was studying for a master’s degree when the album was recorded. Lynch unsheathes his prodigious chops only on “A Fresh Taste of the Blues,” stepping aside on Foster’s “Ode to Joe Newman” on which four trumpeters share solo honors. Trombonist Richard Davies, tenor saxophonist Peter Furlan and trumpeter Matthew Hilgenberg are showcased on “The Hampton Strut,” while Foster presents a brief but eye–opening tenor clinic on “Love Handles.” Pianist Peter Yarin fashions cogent statements on the last three numbers with Hilgenberg, tenor Melvin Butler and drummer Andrew Sanesi also soloing on “Can’t Sleep,” trumpeter Vince Cutro on “Swedish Thing,” Butler, bassist Martin Wind and French hornist Robert Jost on “Do Dway.” The NYU ensemble deserves a round of applause for its competence, Foster a standing “o” for his bright and swinging charts that embody the insuperable spirit of William Basie, the peerless Kid from Red Bank.
Contact:NYU Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, 212–998–5424. Web site, www.nyu.edu/education/music
Track Listing: A Fresh Taste of the Blues; Ode to Joe Newman; The Hampton Strut; Love Handles; I Just Can