Here's today's trivia question: How can one separate Canada's A-level university jazz ensembles from their working professional counterparts? The answer: One can't. At least, not if said undergrad ensembles are from Montreal's McGill University or the University of Toronto, either of which readily bears comparison to that country's (or any country's) more seasoned play-for-pay bands.
Awakening, the third album I've heard by UT's splendid 10 O'Clock Jazz Orchestra (I presume that's am, not pm), clearly proves the point (again). Director Paul Read asks his students to scramble through a number of flaming hoops, and in every case they complete the assignment not only unscathed but presumably looking forward to the next one.
The bookendsRead's aptly named "Too Pretty for Words and Renee Rosnes' lustrous arrangement of the traditional folk song "Early One Morning are emphatically persuasive, as is almost everything in between. Besides "Pretty, Read composed the title selection and the tender "Ballad for Mr. G, while Terry Promane, UT's director of Jazz Studies and trombonist with the world-class Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, wrote "The Highland Gate and "Calendula.
The ensemble nails every one of them, as it does Andrew Jones' "Tall Shadows and "Is This the Underground and Michael McClennan's "Ivar Dreams. There are times, as on "Awakening or "Calendula, when one senses a striking resemblance to Rob McConnell's incomparable Boss Brass (but without the French horns).
If the ensemble is sharp and self-assured, the soloists are on the same page, and there are impressive showcases for flugels Vincent Spilchuk ("Mr. G ) and Jared Greeve ("Awakening ), pianist D'Arcy Myronuk ("Early One Morning ) and guest tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff ("Calendula ). On "Mr. G, Spilchuk even reminds one of the great Guido Basso. Others seizing their opportunities are saxophonists Daniel Easty, Chris Willes, Daniel Jamieson and Mike Ruby, trombonists Steve McFarlane, Karl Silveira and Pat Blanchard, trumpeter Dan Gooch, guitarist Harley Card and drummer Ethan Ardelli.
Too lavish in my praise? Well, it's no more than one man's opinion. When in doubt, listen for yourself. To these ears, the UT orchestra is well-nigh impeccable. First-rate charts, respectable sound and generous playing time serve to enhance the listening experience.
Too Pretty for Words; The Highland Gate; Tall Shadows; Ballad for Mr. G; Is This the Underground; Awakening; Calendula; Ivar Dreams; Early One Morning (66:48).
Paul Read: director; Dan Blandon, Vincent Spilchuk, Jared Greeve, Rebecca Hennessy, Dan Gooch: trumpet; Daniel Easty, Daniel Jamieson, Chris Willes, Mike Ruby, Dan Pencer: reeds; Karl Silveiro, Steve McFarlane, Pat Blanchard, Vanessa Fralick, Trevor Hiepleh: trombone; D
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