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Director Tony Leonardi and his colleagues have established an excellent Jazz Studies program at Ohio's Youngstown State University, many of whose distinguished alumni returned in 1994 for an all-star big-band concert to help mark the 125th anniversary of the university's Dana School of Music. The concert was recorded and released on disc as Celebration. This really is an all-star ensemble, its members having logged time with the likes of Buddy Rich, Tommy Dorsey, Louie Bellson, Tommy Flanagan, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Woody Herman, Tito Puento, Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Gil Evans, Eddie Daniels, the Airman of Note, Jon Faddis, Frank Foster, Clark Terry, Vic Damone, Mel Tormé, Lou Rawls, John Fedchock, Al Porcino, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, the Vanguard Orchestra, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Tom Harrell, Lee Konitz, the Charli Persip Superband, DIVA, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, Slide Hampton, Archie Shepp, Bobby Watson and many others. Among the featured soloists on Celebration are trumpeters Tim Leahey, Mike Kamuf and Darryl White; saxophonists Ralph Lalama, Glenn Wilson and Dave D'Angelo; trombonist/vocalist Jim Masters, bassist Melissa Slocum, pianist Jim Weidman and drummer Darryl Pellegrini. Original compositions by Kamuf ("Maybe You Don't"), Masters ("You Just Made My Day," on which he sings) and Wilson ("Adams Park") complement others by Cole Porter ("It's All Right with Me"), the Gershwins ("The Man I Love," showcasing Slocum's resonant bass), Wayne Shorter ("Lester Left Town"), Cannonball Adderley ("Wabash," with another vocal by Masters, this time reprising Cannon's solo a la King Pleasure or Annie Ross) and Thad Jones ("Fingers"). Despite only one rehearsal the ensemble is generally well-focused, a tribute to the high level of musicianship among its members. The recording itself lacks definition and balance, which is true of many concert performances. In sum, a respectable concert performance that generates a fair amount of sparks but contains many other moments that are less than incendiary.
Track Listing: Maybe You Don't; You Just Made My Day; The Man I Love; Lester Left Town; Adams Park; It's All Right with Me; Wabash; Fingers (68:15).
Personnel: Tony Leonardi, conductor; David D'Angelo, Kent Engelhardt, Ralph Lalama, Rich Rollo, Glenn Wilson, reeds; Mike Kamuf, Tim Leahey, Louis Pisani, Dennis Reynolds, Darryl White, trumpets; Michael Crist, Jeff King, Jim Masters, John Olsson, trombones; Jim Weidman, piano; Melissa Slocum, bass; Darryl Pellegrini, drums. Special guests: Bill Bodine, Richard Hahn, trumpets; Jerry Ascione, conductor ("It's All Right with Me").