All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


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

Nicholas F. Mondello By

Sign in to view read count
Decades ago, the great bandleader Stan Kenton created a spoken prologue to an album recording. It was entitled "This Is an Orchestra." In that brief monologue, which was interspersed with brief performance examples, Kenton detailed the individual and ensemble components, integration, and overall creative mix that "made" the Kenton Jazz Orchestra what it was.

At First Light epitomizes the absolute best that its soloists, sections, ensembles, and arrangers and composers have to offer. It is a truly grand effort that is much more than the sum of its parts.

The Jazz Knights are all members of the U.S. Army Band stationed at West Point—the United States Military Academy. In Kenton's day or for that matter in any day past or present, the individual musicians, composers and arrangers of the Jazz Knights could easily have been members of Kenton's or any band leader's ensemble.

At First Light delivers nine exciting selections, each a sterling example of brilliant arranging and world-class big band and solo performance. The compositions ranging from de rigueur jazz standards ("Alone Together," "Secret Love") to originals ("At First Light," "The Basilisk," "Dangerous Ground," "Samba for Megan") and a commissioned work ("The Monster Brooks No Pretense") are all of a highly involved, intelligent nature. No song is so over-arranged as to bore, smother a soloist or not swing.

Individual kudos here go to drummer Scott Drewes whose Swiss watch time, drive and taste shine throughout. Lead trumpeter John Castleman sparkles and screams across the date, and the extended solo efforts of altoist Mike Reifenberg blossom with creative fire. Of particular interest is trumpeter Josh Economy's Don Ellis-like multi-phonic take on "Monster," and David Loy Song does just that on each of his wonderful solo forays.

At First Light is a smart arranger/composer's effort. Hats off to Scott Arcangel and Mark Tonelli and Mike Reifenberg; their charts are involving and challenging in the mold set down by great arrangers like Bill Holman, Sammy Nestico, and Thad Jones. Beautifully finished, the production and recording values here are excellent.

The West Point Jazz Knights' At First Light needs no intro from leader Chief Warrant Officer Matthew C. Morse. The CD speaks for itself: This is very much an orchestra, and an outstanding one at that.

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.

Title: At First Light | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced


Related Video

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 Live In Healdsburg CD/LP/Track Review
Live In Healdsburg
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Carpe Diem CD/LP/Track Review
Carpe Diem
by Don Phipps
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Exotica CD/LP/Track Review
by Chris May
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Oriental Orbit CD/LP/Track Review
Oriental Orbit
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Brightbird CD/LP/Track Review
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Peaks of Light CD/LP/Track Review
Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Alleviation" CD/LP/Track Review Alleviation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Satoko Fujii Solo" CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31" CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "New Road: Iowa Memoirs" CD/LP/Track Review New Road: Iowa Memoirs
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 26, 2018
Read "The Singles" CD/LP/Track Review The Singles
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971" CD/LP/Track Review On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 27, 2017