Over the past five years the University of Colorado's Jazz Studies program has earned no less than 13 Student Music Awards from Down Beat magazine. I say "earned because (a) the competition is gaining strength each year; and (b) this is one close-knit and hardworking group of undergrads, as one can readily verify on CU Over the Rainbow.
Of course, any disc that opens with Porter and closes with Gershwin merits extra credit from this impartial observer, especially when played with the kind of warmth and understanding that the UC ensemble brings to the table. The band eagerly devours Porter's "It's All Right with Me and the Gershwin brothers' "Nice Work If You Can Get It, ably abetted by trumpeter Kevin Woods, co-winner of this year's Down Beat award for Best Instrumental Jazz Soloist. Tenor saxophonist Serafin Sanchez constructs a second persuasive solo on "Nice Work. Eric Richards arranged the Porter, Jim McNeely the Gershwin.
Sandwiched between them are a trio of original compositions: Bob Brookmeyer's playful "Fun House, McNeely's cheerful mambo "305 and Maria Schneider's multi-colored "Last Season, each of which the ensemble aces more handily than a mid-term exam. On the Arlen/Harburg classic from which the album takes its name, director John Davis introduces the program's newest faculty member, tenor saxophonist John Gunther, who quickly validates his credentials with a moving rendition that includes the seldom-heard verse.
Besides Woods (who's also heard on "Fun House ) and Sanchez, the ensemble boasts a number of consistently impressive improvisers including tenor Danny Meyer ("Fun House ), Kurtis Adams (alto sax on "305, soprano on "Last Season ), trombonist Dave Wiske ("305 ) and flugel Gabe Mervins ("Last Season ). Drummers Ryan Hayden (tracks 1-3) and Tyler Hornby (4-6) anchor the muscular rhythm sections, while lead trumpeter Dave Rajewski makes certain the brass are wide-awake and on the same page.
A word about the album's title: by reversing the University of Colorado's initials, Davis is able to piece together any number of clever names (to date, CU 'Round Midnight,CU Over the Rainbow). My suggestion for the next one: I'll CU in My Dreams. As for the ensemble, it's a safe bet we'll CU winning even more honors in future Down Beat student music awards competitions.
Track Listing: Its All Right with Me; Fun House; Over the Rainbow; 305; Last Season; Nice Work If You Can Get It (44:12).
Personnel: John Davis: director. Tracks 1-3: Dave Rajewski, Jason Johnson, Andrew Flockhart,
Romund Anderson, Kevin Woods: trumpet; Matt Pitts, Damani Phillips, Danny Meyer,
Darren Mueller, James Mann: reeds; Neal Bushaw, Lindy Vanlandingham, Johanna Rubsam,
Mike Woodard: trombone; Justin Pfeifer: piano; Gonzalo Teppa: bass; Ryan Hayden: drums.
Tracks 4-6 : Rajewski, Woods (6), Dan Isbell, Gabe Mervine (4, 5), Erinn Bone, Brian
Margrave: trumpet; Mueller, Mann, Kurtis Adams, Andy Rosenberg, Serafin Sanchez: reeds;
Rubsam, Dave Wiske, John Nuerohr, Scott Olson: trombone; Andy Nevala: piano; Teppa:
bass; Tyler Hornby: drums.
Year Released: 2006
| Record Label: UCO
| Style: Big Band