The United States Military Academy has several bands drawn from graduates of prestigious music schools in the U.S. The Jazz Knights, who form one segment, have been around for 30 years. During that time they have played with Benny Goodman and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and have also welcomed Steve Turre, James Carter and John Clayton, among others, as guests. At First Light tells its own tale of a resolute band, with a program of original material and a couple of standards.
With imaginative arrangements to complement skillful playing, the music signals a treat right from the swinging "Alone Together." The charts open for ensemble lines and counterpoint which turn out to be the herald for some nifty solos. There are three, and each player finds his own groove. Mike Reifenberg turns in taut phrases on alto sax while Eric Ordway plays lush trombone, all smooth and linear until he tears it open with jumpy, swing lines. And then there's Scott Drewes on drums, who enlivens the rhythmic spectrum with his accents and beat.
Reifenberg 's "The Basilisk" undergoes several changes. A funky opening leads into mainstream orchestration until he takes his alto soaring into the sky of free invention. John Castleman decides that his trumpet can molten a bop groove and he is splendidly right about that. The sway and the punch fall into place neatly on this scintillating tune.
"The Stakeout" is a bop tune that rides on the lines of the band at first, then opens to invite David Loy Song, who vitalizes the melody and reshapes it with engrossing improvisations. Vito Speranza takes another direction, unraveling fiery trumpet permutations and going far out without falling into the vat of excess.
The Jazz Knights keep their music and playing in focus. The perspective makes for tasty listening.
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: 2008
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Big Band
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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