The DVC above stands for Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hills, CA. DVC is quite proud of its Jazz Studies program, as well it should be with more than five hundred students helping to support four big bands, four smaller combos, three vocal groups, a summer clinic supervised by master educator Jamey Aebersold, and classes and seminars on Jazz theory, improvisation and history. This is the second album by the DVC Night Jazz Band. The first one featured alto saxophonist Phil Woods; this time, Jazz Studies director Rory Snyder has enlisted the services of another long-time Jazz luminary, pianist / composer Toshiko Akiyoshi, to conduct the band and contribute two of her engaging themes, “March of the Tadpoles” and “Warning! Success May Be Hazardous to Your Health,” on both of which she doubles as conductor and pianist.
The members of the Night Band may be students but they certainly aren’t amateurs. Several of them have no doubt played with other bands, as the names of trumpeter Mike Olmos, trombonist Sandy Hughes and alto saxophonist Alex Murzyn were already known to me. Two who weren’t, trumpeter Gary Coartney and trombonist Jeanne Geiger, wrote “The Empty Space Inside” and “Perception Turns the Corner,” respectively. The ensemble also performs original works by Tom Kubis (“Marie’s Shuffle”), Chuck MacKinnon (“Wake Up Call”), Manfredo Fest (“Guararpes”) and Larry De La Cruz (“View of the Valley”), Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” and Edgar Sampson / Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way,” the last featuring the six-member vocal group Natural Selection. Toshiko’s compositions were recorded in concert, the others in a studio (with notably better sound).
The aforementioned Olmos, Hughes and Murzyn are featured prominently as soloists, as is tenor saxophonist Guido Fazio (“Shuffle,” “Perception,” “Guararpes”). Others having their say include guitarist Greg Reginato, drummer T Moran, pianist Guy Grimstead and flugels Coartney (showcased on his meditative “Empty Space”) and Walt Beveridge. Murzyn is the main man on MacKinnon’s insistent “Wake Up Call.” Kubis, who seems incapable of writing anything less than charming, sets a breezy course with “Shuffle” and the ensemble takes it from there, working hard to navigate the slippery shoals of Toshiko’s “Warning!” and “Tadpoles,” the latter based, it seems, on “All the Things You Are.” Murzyn and Olmos have some of their best moments on “Straight, No Chaser,” whose snappy pace is quite agreeable. “Valley,” which closes the session, is a rhythmic charmer with cogent statements by Hughes, Grimstead and Moran and a dazzling soli by the brass.
After listening, it’s easy to understand why DVC and Snyder are so pleased with DVC’s flourishing Jazz Studies program. It’s a blue-chip enterprise, as is the DVC Night Jazz Band.
Track Listing: Marie
Personnel: Rory Snyder, director; Toshiko Akiyoshi, composer, conductor, piano (2, 3); Dan Fava, Gary Coartney, Scott Bertrand (1, 4-10), Mike Olmos (1, 4-10), Walt Beveridge (2, 3), Jeff Lynn (2, 3), trumpet, flugelhorn; Alex Murzyn, alto, soprano sax, flute; Eric Dannewitz, alto, soprano sax, flute, alto flute; Guido Fazio, tenor, soprano sax, piccolo, flute, clarinet; Grant Leimbach (1, 4-10), tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Brenda Thompson, tenor, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Ben Fenwick (2, 3), baritone sax, bass clarinet; Troy Oswald (1-9), Sandy Hughes (1-7, 9, 10), Greg Teal (1-3, 5-10), Jeanne Geiger (1, 4-8, 10), trombone; Kurt Kellersberger, bass trombone, tuba; Guy Grim stead (1, 4-10), piano; Greg Reginato, guitar; Karl Hartmann, acoustic, electric bass; T Moran, drums; Natural Selection (Jazz vocal group)
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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