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The Jazz Knights, West Point's jazz ensemble, is the U.S Army's contribution to big band jazz. An outfit that recruits its members from the finest of the nation's music education schools, it has produced a vibrant, first rate outing with At First Light.
It's obvious within the first moments of the opening cut, the Dietz/Swartz standard, "Alone Together," that the Jazz Knights are a disciplined, polished outfit. Their rhythm team is tight and a bunch of horn guys buff the bright, sparkling harmonies to a high polish. They also do not hold back on the fire and energy in the solo spots. Alto saxophonist SSG Mike Reifenberg burns into his opening turn, followed by SSG Eric Ordway's fluid, beefy, free flowing power on the trombone.
The title tunes sighs to life on a reedy, orchestral, Gil Evans vibe. SSG David Loy Song blows a warm and woody tenor sax solo, followed by SSG Dan Pierce's crisp and precise trombone slot. "The Monster Brooks No Pretense," a highlight, has a sweeping, cinematic feel, infused with a sense of adventure. The piece is a commisioned work by Canadian-born composer/trombonist Mike Fahie, and is dedicated to the great trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer. It features lots of on-edge soloing and some powerhouse swing.
"Suo Gan," arranged by lead alto saxophonist SSG Mike Reifenberg, is the most delicately beautiful piece of the set: a gentle, simple melody with a caressing feeling of tranquility and peace that sounds as if it could have come from the pen of Maria Schneider. It includes an achingly gorgeous tenor sax solo by SSG David Loy Song.
"Dangerous Ground" has a push and pull dynamic between woodwinds and brass before SSG Derrick James, the tune's composer, rips into a red hot alto sax solo.
At First Light is a top notch set of big band jazz from the West Point Band's Jazz Knights.
Track Listing: Alone Together; At First Light; The Monster Brooks No Pretense; Suo Gan; Dangerous Ground;
Secret Love; The Stakeout; Samba for Megan; The Basilisk.
Personnel: Chief Warrant Officer Matthew C. Morse; director; Staff Sgt. John Castleman: lead trumpet;
Staff Sgt. Vito Speranza: trumpet II; Sgt 1st Class Rich Johnson: trumpet III; Staff Sgt. Josh
Economy: trumpet IV; Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg: lead alto, soprao, flute, clarinet; Staff
Sgt. Derrick James: alto II, clarinet; Staff Sgt. David Loy Song: tenor I, clarinet; Sgt. 1st Class Jay Malone: tenor II, clarinet; Master Sgt Gary
McCourry: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Staff Sgt. Dan Pierce: lead trombone; Staff
Sgt. Eric Ordway: trombone II; Master Sgt. Ron Fleischman: trombone III; Master Sgt. Teddy
Arnold: bass trombone; Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli: guitar; Sgt. 1st Class Scott Archangel:
piano; Staff Sgt. Brandon Nelson: bass; Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes: drums.
Year Released: 2009
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Big Band
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.