Yes, the Florida-based Jazz Professors, as befits the name, are smartbut don't let that throw you. They also swing in the best jazz tradition, even though their fourth album, Blues and Cubes
, was inspired by the art of Pablo Picasso. Unlike Picasso's works, however, there is scant abstraction here; the Professors embody far more bop than bemusement, more Blue Note than bohemian.
As for day gigs, the Professors maintain theirs at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, on whose faculty everyone serves. That means that Blues and Cubes
is the last recording with the group for percussionist Marty Morell
who has retired from his teaching position. The balance of the sextettrumpeter Dan Miller
, saxophonist Jeff Rupert
, pianist Per Danielsson
, guitarist Bobby Koelble
, bassist Richard Drexler
Rupert composed half of the album's ten tasteful numbers, Danielsson two, Drexler one, complementing handsome originals by Charlie Parker
(the flag-waving "Segment") and soprano sax legend Sidney Bechet
(the irrepressible "Promenade aux Champs-Elysees"). "Champs-Elysees" is followed by the bustling "Promenade in Blue," on which Rupert shows (as he does elsewhere) his kinship to such neo-swingers as Harry Allen
, Scott Hamilton
and Ken Peplowski
, with the occasional nod to Stan Getz
(most apparent on "Blue Lamp," "Blue Steel," "View of Heaven" and "Picasso's Blue Lobster"). Miller delivers a superb muted solo on "Blue Lamp" and is solid whenever called on, as are Danielsson and Koelble.
Rupert writes as well as he playswhich is high praise indeedearning top marks for the well-grooved opener, "Blue Lamp," as well as for "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," "Blue Steel," "Promenade in Blue" and "The Iberian." Danielsson isn't far behind, scoring well for the light-hearted "Dora Maar" and dreamy "View of Heaven," while Drexler's pensive "Picasso's Blue Lobster" is a splendid entrée to "The Iberian," a brisk and colorful showpiece for the ensemble that ends the session on a swinging note (with Rupert trading his tenor sax for an alto, on which he also excels).
This is a superlative session from end to end, one that belies the adage that "those who can't, teach." These Professors certainly canand do, producing an album whose highlights are many and whose weaknessesif anyare beyond the measure of most human ears. Blues and Cubes
is Picasso without the caprice, a portrait in sound that should lend pleasure even to those who admire Picasso's singular divergence from the norm.
Blue Lamp; Dora Maar; Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Blue Steel; Segment; View of Heaven;
Promenade aux Champs-Elysees; Promenade in Blue; Picasso’s Blue Lobster; The Iberian.
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