Another year, another superb recording by the Howard University Jazz Ensemble from our nation's capital. Director Fred Irby and the ensemble have been dropping by the studio for many years now (my library includes all but one of their annual albums dating back to 1989), and each new entry in the scrapbook perpetuates the impressive musical standard of those that preceded it.
HUJE '05 is certainly no exception to that rule, encompassing nine admirable selections by the ensemble, four more by Howard's topnotch nine-member a cappella vocal group, Afro Blue, under director Connaitre Miller, and charismatic showcases for trombonist Mark Williams (with rhythm section on "How High the Moon ) and drummer Carroll Dashiell III (by himself on Max Roach's "Drums Unlimited ). Williams is featured again on Billy Strayhorn's "U.M.M.G (Upper Manhattan Medical Group), Johnny Green's "Body and Soul and Chris Royal's groovin' "Groceries for C.J., Dashiell on Percy Mayfield's playful "Hit the Road Jack," Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night and Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night. Pianist Milton Pace is another workhorse, soloing persuasively on "Misty Night, U.M.M.G., "Body and Soul, "Groceries and Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born.
A second trombonist, Reginald Cyntje, is splendid on "Hit the Road (charmingly scored by Scott Silbert of the Navy Commodores) and Luiz Bonfa's "Samba de Orfeo (nicely arranged by Royal), the first with Dashiell and tenor Joseph Whitney, the last with guitarist James Rodney Richardson. Flugel Marlon Winder and alto Brent Birckhead share solo honors on the Japanese folk song "Kasan No Uta, again arranged by Royal, while trumpeter Steven Thomas is heard with Pace on "A Child Is Born. Afro Blue changes the pace on four numbers, the traditional hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight, Antonio Carlos Jobim's "No More Blues and the Howard University alma mater, written in 1916 by F.D. Malone and J.H. Brooks.
If you think college bands can't hang with the pros, the Howard University ensemble should open your eyesand ears. I'm already looking forward to HUJE '06.
Track Listing: Hit the Road Jack; His Eye Is on the Sparrow; How High the Moon; On a Misty Night;
Personnel: Fred Irby III: director; Steven Thomas, Kieron Cavel Irvine, Joseph Teachey, Michael Archey,
Marlon Winder, Columbus Wynn: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brent Birckhead, Randolph Woods
Jr., Angela Everett: alto sax; Joseph Bernard Whitney III, James Lewis: tenor sax; Kimberly
Taylor: baritone sax; Paul Phifer, Seth Rees, Mark Williams, Reginald Cyntje: trombone; Eric
Perkins: bass trombone; Milton Pace: piano; James Rodney Richardson: guitar; Eric
Wheeler: bass; Carroll Dashiell III, Russell Carter Jr.: drums. Afro Blue is Connaitre Miller:
director; Danielle Withers, Kelley Pleasant: soprano; Jessica Chambliss, Faith Jordan: alto;
Kevin Owens, Carlton Hicks: tenor; Jonathan Williams: tenor/baritone; Gregory Watkins:
baritone; Brian Lawson: bass.