All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Howard University Jazz Ensemble: Journey of a Friend

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Although the Howard University Jazz Ensemble isn't quite as dependable as a morning sunrise, it has been present and accounted for in a recording studio once each year since it was formed in 1976 by Fred Irby III, who not only directed that first session but has supervised every one since, right up to No. 37, Journey of a Friend, which showcases the 2012 ensemble in a typically engaging album dedicated in part to the memory of former student Dianne Nichol Grainger, a celebrated percussionist, ardent music educator and co- founder of The Marching Elite, a program dedicated to working with disadvantaged youth in Baltimore. Grainger died in an accident in August 2009, two months before her twenty-fifth birthday.

"Journey," commissioned by the HUJE to honor Grainger, consists of a series of exquisite melodies showcasing various percussion instruments, inspired by Grainger's life and wonderfully written by leading African-American composer Evelyn Simpson Cureton. It's the capstone to an otherwise exemplary album comprised for the most part of jazz compositions by Ray Brown, John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Tadd Dameron, Gerry Mulligan, Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock. Also on the menu are pianist Samuel Prather's "Carnival di Panama" and "UnconTainable," Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" and the standard "It's Easy to Remember," the last dedicated to the memory of another former student and musician, Alonzo James Guyton, who was fatally shot during an apparent robbery attempt in 2011. Like Grainger, the former Marine was 24 years old.

The session opens with the first of two vocals, a pleasing turn by Shacara Rogers on Hancock's "Butterfly." Williams' "Sister Cheryl" (featuring Ashton Vines, soprano; Rick Peralta, electric guitar; Joseph Wilson, piano) is followed by Brown's homage to drummer Art Blakey, "Buhaina, Buhaina," whose buoyant solos are by pianist Prather and bassist Eliot Seppa, the lively drum work by Cedric Edmon II who shines again (with Prather and tenor Elijah Balbed) on Coltrane's exuberant "Moment's Notice." Prather is out front on the rhythmic "Carnival," Peralta, Balbed and Seppa on Mike Crotty's colorful arrangement of "Sweet Love." Prather shares blowing space with Vines on Silver's aptly named "Peace," with Balbed on Prather's bop-centered "UnconTainable." Rochelle Rice wrote and sings the clever lyrics to Dameron's "Good Bait." Peralta solos earnestly with tenor Isaiah Allen on "Easy to Remember," with trumpeter Jared Bailey on the finale, Mulligan's entrancing "Festive Minor."

37 years, 37 impressive recordings by the superb Howard University Jazz Ensemble. Let's hope for at least 37 more.

Track Listing: Butterfly; Sister Cheryl; Buhaina, Buhaina; Journey of a Friend; Moment’s Notice; Carnival di Panama; Sweet Love; Peace; UnconTainable; Good Bait; It’s Easy to Remember; Festive Minor.

Personnel: Fred Irby III: director; Jonathan Neal: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jared Bailey: trumpet, flugelhorn; Anthony Daniel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Norberto Mejicanos: trumpet, flugelhonr; Alexander Parchment: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ashton Vines: alto, soprano sax, flute; Ashanti Mills: alto sax; Isaiah Allen: tenor sax; Elijah Balbed: tenor sax; Brandon Holtmeyer: tenor sax; Brandon Barnett: baritone sax; Ariel Shelton: French horn; Christopher Steele: trombone; Torrance Hill: trombone; Isaac Bell: trombone; Curry Hackett: bass trombone; Samuel Prather: piano; Joseph Wilson: piano; Gregory Chambers: piano; Rick Peralta: electric guitar; Eliot Seppa: acoustic, electric bass; Cedric Edmon: drums; Victor Younge: vibes, percussion; Brittany Jiles: vibes, percussion.

Title: Journey of a Friend | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: HUJE


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

HUJE '85

New World Records


HUJE '84

New World Records


Related Articles

Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read From Silence to Somewhere CD/LP/Track Review
From Silence to Somewhere
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Never Bet The Devil Your Head CD/LP/Track Review
Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 21, 2018
Read The Questions CD/LP/Track Review
The Questions
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Meerkat Parade CD/LP/Track Review
Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018
Read "Bach: Solo Works for Marimba" CD/LP/Track Review Bach: Solo Works for Marimba
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 15, 2017
Read "Provenance" CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 4, 2017
Read "Beloved" CD/LP/Track Review Beloved
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 10, 2017
Read "Just The Way We Are" CD/LP/Track Review Just The Way We Are
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "Light Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Light Blue
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 10, 2018
Read "Phrases" CD/LP/Track Review Phrases
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 12, 2018