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The Cal State–Northridge A’ Band has earned a number of awards for its proficiency, and here’s a thumbnail sketch of why that is so. New director Matt Harris clothes the ensemble in a broad array of musical garments from ballad to burner, straight–ahead to on–the–edge, and it wears each of them quite well. Equally well–dressed are the band’s three guest artists, percussionist Brian Kilgore and saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Rob Lockart, with the flame–throwing Christlieb especially inspired on Rob McConnell’s swinging arrangement of “Just Friends.” Harris, a well–known composer / arranger and former sideman in bands led by Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson, gives the ensemble scant opportunity to relax, placing on its music stands such demanding charts as Vince Mendoza’s “Sketches #8,” Clare Fischer’s “Guarabe,” Bob Brookmeyer’s “Nasty Dance” and his own compositions, “Inside Out” and “Los Brujos,” each of which is dispatched with few missteps, and none that any but the sharpest ear could detect. The two ballads, “Body and Soul” and “Blame It on My Youth,” feature vocalist Lisa Hamilton whose plaintive delivery embellishes their melodramatic story lines. Lockart sits in on “Sketches #8,” Kilgore gives his nimble hands a workout on “Los Brujos” and “Guarabe.” After the A’ Band completes its eight numbers, the smaller combos (two trios, a quartet) move onstage for the last three, spreading their wings and soaring on Monk’s “I Mean You,” Nat Adderley’s “Blues for Daddy–O” and “Pair of Eleven’s” by CSUN trumpeter Shawn Gaston. There are dandy solos along the way by Gaston, soprano saxophonist Chad Bloom (“I Mean You”), trumpeter John Goldman and pianist Lisa Harriton (“Daddy–O”). The A’ Band also boasts a number of credible soloists including Gaston (“Guarabe,” “Inside Out”), Bloom (tenor on “Nasty Dance”), baritone Brandon Hagewood (“Guarabe”), alto Warren Fordham (“Guarabe”), alto Paul Pate and pianist Jamieson Trotter (“Just Friends”). A cogent, well–shaped album in which CSUN’s A’ Band does nothing to tarnish its impressive reputation.
Contact:Matt Harris, CSU–Northridge Music Department, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA 91330–8314; e–mail email@example.com
Track Listing: Los Brujos; Sketches #8; Body and Soul; Just Friends; Guarabe; Inside Out; Blame It on My Youth; Nasty Dance; I Mean You; One for Daddy