Jason Hainsworth Big Band / DePaul University Jazz Ensemble / Big Band Ritmo Sinfonica Citta di Verona / Howard University Jazz Ensemble

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Jason Hainsworth Jazz Orchestra
DW Jazz

On his first turn at bat, composer / arranger / tenor saxophonist Jason Hainsworth has not only slammed one out of the park with Kaleidoscope but has produced a viable entrant in the big-band Record of the Year sweepstakes. The album is comprised of seven songs (three standards, four originals by Hainsworth), and every one is an unequivocal winner.

Hainsworth, a 1992 graduate of Houston's renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts who now teaches at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, FL, traveled to New York City to recruit topnotch sidemen (and women) for his inaugural album. Two of the band's section leaders, alto Sharel Cassity and trumpeter Tanya Darby, are members of the fairer sex, as is bassist Linda Oh, while tenor saxophonists Peter Reardon Anderson and Will Reardon Anderson are either related or two of the most unlikely coincidences in big-band history. Lead trombonist Michael Dease (showcased on the ballad "When I Fall in Love"), who now makes his home in the Big Apple, was a colleague of Hainsworth's a decade ago at Florida State University. And last but not least, Hainsworth lassoed a brace of outstanding guest artists, trumpeter Claudio Roditi and tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, each of whom delivers inspired licks on Hainsworth's medium-tempo burner "It's Right There." Roditi solos again (muted) with Hainsworth and pianist Roger Lent on Howard Dietz / Arthur Schwartz's "Alone Together."

Kaleidoscopeopens with the charming Cole Porter perennial "I Concentrate on You" (solos by Cassity, Lent, Oh and drummer Phil Stewart), scored as a Jazz samba in which brass and reeds are given leave to brandish their chops. Following "Right There," "When I Fall in Love" and "Alone Together," Hainsworth ends the session with his originals "Matriarch" (written for his mother, Pat), "Marcelienne" (for his wife) and the requisite blues, "Something Stolen, Something Blue." Tom Barber's burnished flugel is front and center on the waltzing "Matriarch," Hainsworth's glossy tenor on the gentle bossa "Marcelienne," while the Basie-style "Blue" earmarks blowing space for Lent, alto Richard Miller, bass trombonist Max Seigel (using a plunger), baritone Paul Nedzela and tenor Will Reardon Anderson.

While one album does not a career make, Hainsworth has certainly taken an auspicious first step with Kaleidoscope, which is as diverse and rainbow-like as the name implies.

DePaul University Jazz Ensemble Featuring Mark Colby
Next Season
DePaul University Jazz

Over the past decade the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble has recorded with such well-known artists as Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, Tom Harrell, Bob Brookmeyer, Frank Wess and Jim McNeely. On Next Season, director Bob Lark's award-winning ensemble shares the studio with tenor saxophonist Mark Colby, a seasoned pro who isn't known to more than a handful of Jazz enthusiasts outside the Chicago area but certainly should be. With Colby, a Stan Getz acolyte, smoldering on five selections and the DePaul ensemble at the top of its game, Next Season is another in an unbroken series of impressive albums by Lark's clear-eyed and enterprising scholars.

Colby, ably supported by the band, is the main man on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "A Felicidade" and "Desafinado," Wayne Shorter's "Lester Left Town," Phil Woods' "Goodbye, Mr. Evans" and Peter Chatman's "Everyday I Have the Blues," the last featuring the album's only vocal, by debonair tenor Milton Suggs. Colby is at ease in every framework, devising one eloquent phrase after another and making every solo special. And when Colby's not guiding the craft the ensemble is far from rudderless, cruising steadily ahead on the wings of splendid charts by trombonist Dominic Marino (Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird," Miles Davis / Gil Evans' "Boplicity" and his own composition, "Wrong Place, Wrong Time"), guitarist Mike Pinto's sultry "Via Lyon," faculty member Tom Matta's spacious "Next Season" and his congenial arrangement of the plaintive "Goodbye, Mr. Evans." Pinto arranged "A Felicidade" and "Desafinado," trumpeter Scott Dickinson "Lester Left Town."

As for soloists, DePaul has a stalwart squadron of its own including Pinto ("Desafinado," "Via Lyon"), Dickinson ("Lester Left Town," "Wrong Place"), Marino ("Next Season"), flugel Joe Clark ("Mr. Evans"), alto Nick Mazzarella ("Wrong Place"), vibraphonist Justin Thomas ("Boplicity") and tenors Dan Nicholson ("Lady Bird," "Next Season") and Drew Pierson ("Via Lyon"). Even so, they are hard-pressed to outflank the ensemble, which aces every assignment with awareness and animation.

With Lark in charge, one may rest assured that Next Season and every season thereafter will be admirable and productive. Add Mark Colby's sublime tenor, and this Season is especially rewarding.

Big Band Ritmo Sinfonica Citta di Verona
Restless Spirits: The Music of Roberto Magris
Flame Boy

Having previously heard Italian composer / arranger / pianist Roberto Magris only in small-group settings, it's gratifying to encounter his music for larger ensembles as performed on Restless Spirits by the Big Band Ritmo Sinfonica Citta di Verona. I don't read or speak Italian but presume the "Ritmo" stands for "rhythm," something the band (and Magris' charts) have in abundance, whatever the mood or tempo.

Big Band Ritmo is a forty-three piece orchestra with strings, augmented on seven tracks each by special guest artists, trumpeter Massimo Greco and percussionist Sbibu. Magris plays acoustic piano on four selections, Fender Rhodes on the other five. Magris and Greco share much of the blowing space (an unnamed trombonist stretches out on "African Mood." soprano saxophonist Giovanna Bissoli on "Maliblues"), and Greco is an engaging soloist on flugelhorn ("Blues for My Sleeping Baby," "Standard Life") or trumpet. Magris, meanwhile, uses his elegant touch and harmonic awareness to good advantage throughout.

Two pianos introduce the pulsating "Restless Spirits," on which Magris is listed as playing Fender Rhodes. Sbibu is at his best here, urging the spirits onward with his unremitting percussive by-play. He's also front and center on the spirited "Standard Life," providing a secure rhythmic backdrop for Greco's soaring flugel and Magris' expressive piano. As noted, Magris composed every number and arranged all save "Restless Spirits" (adapted by Gino Farenzena) and the ballad "Peaceful Heart" (Marco Pasetto). The picturesque "African Mood," a charming opener, is followed by the equally enticing "Sleeping Baby." The studio date closes with an alternate take of "Ambiguous," increasing the album's playing time to almost seventy minutes.



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