After more than half a century, the tradition of excellence continues at the University of North Texas in Denton with this splendid new release by the school’s Two O’Clock Jazz Band (the various UNT ensembles are named after their daily rehearsal times). While the famed One O’Clock Band is the best known and most widely recorded of the several UNT ensembles, the Two O’Clock Band proves on this earnest salute to celebrated composer / saxophonist / trumpeter / bandleader Benny Carter that it’s much less than an hour removed from its more frequently acclaimed running–mate. Here’s what Benny himself wrote after hearing the album: “I was pleased by the performance by the UNT Two O’Clock Lab Band of Kansas City Suite. The musicians played each piece as though it were written for them. I was personally gratified by the enthusiasm shown by the members of the Two O’Clock in the performance of my compositions and arrangements. The entire achievement was totally professional and my hat goes off to [transcriber] Vaughn Roberts, the soloists and especially to [director] Jim Riggs.” The first ten selections on the disc (which together comprise the aforementioned Kansas City Suite ) were written by Carter (and transcribed by the ’98 band’s Jazz trumpeter, Roberts); the others are by Thad Jones (“To You,” which was dedicated to Carter), Cole Porter (“All of You”), Frank Foster (‘Who Me?”), Steve Allen (“This Could Be the Start of Something”), Quincy Jones (“I Needs to be Bee’d with You”) and Benny Goodman / Jimmy Mundy / Charlie Christian (“Air Mail Special,” arranged by Al Cohn). It’s clear from the outset that the Two O’Clock Band is resolutely tuned to Carter’s wavelength, as these are colorful portrayals of his buoyantly swinging Kansas City–style compositions, and those who appreciate big–band Jazz in general, and the Swing Era in particular, should derive great pleasure from hearing them again. Also worth hearing and admiring are Jones’s ardent ballad, Porter’s elegant standard, the seductive swingers by Foster and Jones, and the flag–waving twosome, “Air Mail Special” and “This Could be the Start of Something.” The ensemble is sharp and perceptive, the soloists bold and assertive. A well–played and consistently stylish session from end to end.
Track listing: Vine Street Rumble; Katy Do; Miss Missouri; Rompin’ at the Reno; Sunset Glow; The Wiggle Walk; Meetin’ Time; Paseo Promenade; Blue Five Jive; Jackson County Jubilee; To You; All of You; Who Me?; This Could Be the Start of Something Big; I Needs to Be Bee’d with You; Air Mail Special (61:12).
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