All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


The West Point Band's Jazz Knights: At First Light

Edward Blanco By

Sign in to view read count

With jazz music under assault lately from the recent loss of IAJE to the demise of jazz radio stations throughout the country, it's comforting to know that jazz has many defenders everywhere. Among them are the soldier-musicians from the United States Military Academy at West Point, known as The Academy's Jazz Knights Big Band. They've launched a salvo of dazzling big band music with the self-released At First Light, an album of dynamite-packed swinging big band charts, guaranteed to clear the smoke and leave a lasting musical statement on the front lines of jazz.

In conjunction with the West Point Concert Band and the Hellcats field music unit, the Jazz Knights help fulfill the music requirements of the Military Academy and the Army at numerous functions, both at West Point and throughout the country. Led by CWO Matthew C. Morse, Associate Bandmaster, the band is comprised of professional musicians and graduates from America's finest music schools.

The music in this recording contains an arsenal of big band orchestrations, sure to make the connoisseurs of the genre take notice, for this is one power ensemble that packs a wallop. The repertoire contains original compositions and arrangements including two pieces commissioned for the band. The program however begins with the Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz standard "Alone Together," featuring swaggering alto lines from SSG Mike Reifenberg who also contributes two scores of his own for this album. Trombonist SSG Eric Ordway and drummer SSG Scott Drewes also weigh in with pronounced play of their own.

The Latin-shaded title piece penned by Jeff Holmes of the University of Massachusetts, is one of the center pieces of the album. Showcasing both the reeds and the very able brass section, the track highlights solos from SFC Rich Johnson on trumpet and SSG Dan Pierce on trombone. Arranged by Reifenberg, "Suo Gan," an original Welsh folk song, becomes a beautiful ballad with the support of pianist SSG Scott Arcangel and led by the spacious tenor solos from SSG David Loy Song. "Dangerous Ground" is a perky up beat blazer with razor-sharp alto expressions from composer SSG Derrick James, diced by a smooth guitar run from arranger SSG Mark Tonelli.

With the only other jazz classic on the program, the band plays with explosive force on the old time standard "Secret Love," led by Reifenberg's playful soprano romp and SSG John Castleman's bristling flugelhorn work. It's a piece well supported by the band's brass and woodwinds, promising at least ten minutes of delightful big band music. The music rounds out with the spirited Arcangel chart "The Stakeout" and ends with two Reifenberg compositions, the light "Samba for Megan" and the "not-so-standard thirteen-bar minor blues" as stated in the notes and titled "The Basilisk." Castleman proceeds to blow one mean horn which along with Reifenberg's stirring alto and drummer Drewes powerful pounding, punctuates a session of hard-driving big band orchestrations that's no less than of a world-class caliber.

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; Master Sgt Gary McCourry: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet;Staff Sgt. Jay Malone: tenorII, clainet; 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.

Title: At First Light | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Self Produced


comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Turning Points

Turning Points

Self Produced

At First Light

At First Light

Self Produced

At First Light

At First Light

Self Produced


Related Articles

Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Criss Cross CD/LP/Track Review
Criss Cross
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 22, 2018
Read So Far CD/LP/Track Review
So Far
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "Waller" CD/LP/Track Review Waller
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special Revisited" CD/LP/Track Review Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special Revisited
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Roberto Magris Sextet Live In Miami @ The WDNA Jazz Gallery" CD/LP/Track Review Roberto Magris Sextet Live In Miami @ The WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 2, 2017
Read "Hauptbahnhof" CD/LP/Track Review Hauptbahnhof
by Anthony Shaw
Published: April 4, 2017
Read "Trinity One" CD/LP/Track Review Trinity One
by Geannine Reid
Published: May 31, 2017
Read "TITOK" CD/LP/Track Review TITOK
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2017