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Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts: Hang Time

Jack Bowers By

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Hang Time consists of music written and performed by two student ensembles at the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts: Group Giz, an octet directed by trumpeter Greg Gisbert, and Group Gunn, a septet presided over by pianist Eric Gunnison. The CCJA is a non-profit organization "dedicated to empowering youth to creatively express themselves through the language of jazz." Drummer Paul Romaine serves as the Conservatory's artistic director.

Aside from its reassurance that the future of jazz rests on a solid foundation, at least in and around Denver, Hang Time is quite well played and a pleasure to hear. The album's fourteen selections are divided equally among the bands. No one has written more than one composition, and they are by and large well above the norm for students in that age group. Gisbert and Gunnison have nurtured their apprentices well, and everyone in each ensemble—with one exception—is alert and on his toes. The anomaly is Group Gunn's trumpeter, Molly Sauer, who is alert and on her toes.

Sauer wrote one of the more engaging numbers, the colorful waltz "One Sunset," on which she solos efficiently with tenor Danny Meyer and guitarist Jake Alvarez. Each of the students brings his special perspective to the table, from Afro / Cuban (drummer Alejandro Castano's "Buenas") to Asian (alto Stephen Chen's "Tai Chi"), funk (bassist Patrick McDevitt's "Gotta Listen"), New Orleans R&B (trombonist Zack Demos' "3 OT"), big-band jazz (tenor Garrett Bodley's "Home") and even Thelonious Monk (trumpeter Michael Lenssen's "Quirkatude").

Group hand-clapping enlivens Alvarez's "The Road Not Taken," inspired by Robert Frost's poem of that name, while "Home," which follows, evokes a big-band ambiance that swings easily, as do the solos by Bodley and Demos, and "Quirkatude" captures the spirit of Monk at his capricious best. Completing the program are alto Daryl Gott's "Pop," guitarist Carlos Snaider's "Outer Space," trumpeter Chris Navarette's "Afterthoughts," Meyer's "Grampma," vibraphonist Mark Clifford's "Art & Judy" and the album's lone vocal, bassist Kyle Bollacker's shuffling blues, "I Won't Be Your Man." As neither group employs a piano, it's good to have Clifford, Snaider and Alvarez to fill in the gaps, ably reinforced by bassists McDevitt (Group Gunn) and Bolllacker (Giz).

A splendid enterprise, especially considering the age and relative inexperience of the musicians involved. The Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts is doing its job well. Long may it prosper.

Track Listing: Pop; Gotta Listen; Outer Space; Tai Chi; The Road Not Taken; Home; Quirkatude; Buenas; 3 OT; One Sunset; Rage; Afterthoughts; Grampma; Art & Judy; I Won’t Be Your Man.

Personnel: Group Giz — Michael Lenssen: trumpet; Christopher Navarette: trumpet; Stephen Chen: alto sax; Garrett Bodley: tenor sax; Zack Demos: trombone; Carlos Snaider: guitar; Kyle Bollacker: bass; Robert Delgardo: drums. Group Gunn — Molly Sauer: trumpet; Daryl Gott: alto sax; Danny Meyer: tenor sax; Mark Clifford: vibraphone; Jake Alvarez: guitar; Patrick McDevitt: bass; Alejandro Castano: drums.

Title: Hang Time | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: High Two Recordings

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