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 circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.