When one thinks of Jazz at the University of North Texas, it's usually in connection with one or more of UNT's exemplary big bands, which have been winning awards and earning applause for nearly half a century. But there's much more to the school's Jazz Studies program than synchronous reeds and shouting brass, as this largely engaging album of chamber jazz affirms.
The four groups represented here range from trio to sextet, all supervised by UNT professor Stefan Karlsson, a superb pianist in his own right who succeeded Dan Haerle as director of the UNT Jazz Combo program. Eight of the ten selections were written by members of the various groups (the others are Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance and George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy ). Two of the best are Korean pianist Ji-Young Lee's "I Wish I Could Remember and "AWJ, performed by a sextet that includes Lee, guitarist Paul Orbell, saxophonists Brian Donohoe and Clay Pritchard, bassist Danny Stone and drummer Kevin Congleton.
Also of more than passing interest are the lyrical "Cube, by bassist Daniel Foose, and guitarist Chris McQueen's spirited "Reverend. Foose, pianist Matt Lawless and drummer Jon Deitemeyer perform "Cube, Deitemyer's "Everything in Life Should Be This Easy and "Porgy (on which Lawless plays superbly), McQueen, Foose and drummer Chris Hill "Reverend and another of McQueen's compositions, "Blossoming. The quartet of tenor Murray James Morrison, pianist/organist Jangeun Bae, bassist Michael League and drummer Ross Pederson assumes a funkier groove on "Freedom Jazz Dance, League's "Hot and Bothered and Bae's "It Is Too Good to Be True.
This is the first recording by the Jazz Combos, and it's always good to uncover another facet of UNT's splendid Jazz Studies program, especially when it is as interesting and well-played as this one.
Track Listing: I Wish I Could Remember; Everything in Life Should Be This Easy; Blossoming; Hot and Bothered; Reverend; Cube; Freedom Jazz Dance; AWJ; I Loves You, Porgy; It Is Too Good to Be True (71:56).
Personnel: Tracks 1, 8 ?" Brian Donohoe, alto, soprano sax; Clay Pritchard, tenor sax; Paul Orbell, guitar; Ji-Young Lee, piano; Danny Stone, bass; Kevin Congleton, drums. Tracks 3, 5 ?" Chris McQueen, guitar; Daniel Foose, bass; Chris Hill, drums. Tracks 2, 6, 9 ?" Matt Lawless, piano; Daniel Foose, bass; Jon Deitemyer, drums. Tracks 4, 7, 10 ?" Murray James Morrison, tenor sax; Jangeun Bae, keyboard; Michael League, bass; Ross Pederson, drums.