This is the first recording by the Central Missouri State Jazz Ensemble, and on the whole, it’s a fairly respectable debut — a bit shaky in spots, rather stiff in others, but one can definitely recognize the potential as director Dave Aaberg’s young charges confront some challenging material by Bob Mintzer, Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones, Toshiko Akiyoshi and others. The main weakness, as is the case with most unseasoned bands, lies with the soloists, none of whom has reached a comfort level from which improvisation is able to flow naturally (you can almost hear them sweating). But that will come. Meanwhile, Aaberg is teaching the ensemble to perform well as a unit, another important aspect of big–band Jazz. One of the more prominent examples of group togetherness takes place on Kim Richmond’s perky arrangement of the Gershwins’ “Love Walked In.” The undergrads also acquit themselves well on Ellington’s “Cottontail,” Bob Curnow’s treatment of Lyle Mays’ “Are We There Yet?,” Aaberg’s lickety–split arrangement of Jerome Kern’s “The Song Is You” and Akiyoshi’s “The Long Yellow Road,” which is one of four numbers performed in front of a concert audience (the others are “Cottontail,” Nestico’s “Front Burner” and Jones’s “All My Yesterdays”). Guest drummer Michael Sekelsky, a professor of percussion and director of athletic bands at CMSU, helps pull things together on the opening track, Mintzer’s rhythmic “Latin Dance,” on which he shares solo space with alto Craig Swift and tenor David Stewart. Swift is featured on Phil Wilson’s arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge,” pianist Sam Stokes on “All of Me,” guitarist Jeff Shirley on “Are We There Yet?” Brass and reeds are generally adequate, although the trumpets could use some more polish, while the rhythm section is decent but unassuming — which is a fairly accurate description of the ensemble as a whole and its first recording under Aaberg’s direction. A commendable effort, with better days to come.
Track Listing: Latin Dance; Chelsea Bridge; Love Walked In; Are We There Yet?; Front Burner; All My Yesterdays; Cottontail; Long Yellow Road; All of Me; The Song Is You (52:23).
Personnel: Dr. David Aaberg, director; Craig Swift, Becky Fanning, David Stewart, Jeromy Bell, Deanna Duncan, reeds; Wade Stanley, John Hume, Wayne Nagy, Bryan Highland, trumpets; Jim McMeachin, Andy Knehans, David Meyer, Eric Gibbs, trombones; Jeff Shirley, guitar; Sam Stokes, piano; Adam Embree, bass; Chad Lippincott, drums; Beth Johnson, vibes, percussion; Josh Williams, percussion. Guest artist, Dr. Michael Sekelsky, drums (