A three-time winner of Downbeat magazine's annual student music awards in the college big band category, the Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra offers a riveting and exciting performance with its sixth impressive album. Due credit must be given to Trent Kynaston and Scott Cowan, who together have directed and produced a dynamic album of uncommon standards and originals. 32 student musicians participated in this endeavor, splitting the playing time on the eleven tracks. Also featured on this recording is the Gold Company jazz vocal group of WMU, which sings on the finale, "I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo," a throwback to the Glenn Miller style of music from the '40s. Kalamazoo, Michigan also happens to be the place where this project was assembled.
Boogaloo Land is 74 minutes of classic and contemporary big band music with a couple of nostalgic pieces thrown in. The music begins with Kennedy and Carr's "South Of The Border," which is the other number with vocals from the band. "Turkish Delight" and the title tune, "Boogaloo Land," are two Scott Cowan charts with nifty solos from various members of the band. Slide Hampton's "Antoine" is one of those tailor-made big band pieces that I play often. Ellington's "Caravan" is a bit long at almost nine minutes, but does include fine solo performances from Don Kramlich (piano), Fred Glesnes (tenor), and Doug Pierce (trumpet).
"Hope Rising" surely does exactly that in a loud brass-infused chart with an excellent solo from trumpeter Chris Lawrence, followed by a burst from the sax of Rodney Glover in an all-around fine progressive/contemporary mode. The whole band comes together on the swinging ensemble piece "Things To Come," from Lawrence's muted horn to Kramlich's piano runs. The band plays with gusto and force on "Little Rootie Tootie" and "Blues In Hoss' Flat." The familiar "Sing, Sang, Sung" showcases the fiery talents of guitarist Bret Farkas and drummer Chris Early.
Boogaloo Land distinguishes this ensemble from other college orchestras in that it provides a great deal of space and opportunity for individual players to show their stuff. The album is replete with inspired solos from three to four different instruments per cut. With an interesting program of music that touches various spectra of the big band genre, Boogaloo Land qualifies as an extra credit performance in my grade book.
Track Listing: South Of The Border; Turkish Delight; Boogaloo Land; Antoine; Caravan; Hope Rising;
Things To Come; Little Rootie Tootie; Blues In Hoss' Flat; Sing, Sang, Sung; I've Got A Gal
In Kalamazoo (74:18).
Personnel: Trent Kynaston, Scott Cowan: directors; Jonathon Althoff, Richard Such, Rodney Glover,
Fred Glesnes, Henning Schroder,Chris Beckstrom, Aaron Kruziki, Karel Van Beekom, Matt
Lefebvre, Michael Grammes, Andrew Haan:woodwins; Eric Day, Marc Landes, Chris
Lawrence, Keaton Akins, Doug Pierce, Benje Daneman, Sean Butterfield: trumpets; Ben
Kadow, Takahide Watanabe, Tim Davis, Scott Grupke, Raphael Crawford, Michael Haisten,
Christopher Van Hof, Brandon Drew, Jay Melton, Ruth Lindgren: trombone; Dan Kramlich:
piano; Bret Farkas, Sam Smiley, Matt Warnock:guitar; Mark Heredia, Don Sibley: bass; Chris
Early, Jon Wert: drums; Carl Nilsen: percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.