Juilliard Jazz Ensemble at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

Nick Catalano By

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One of the most important booking traditions established early on at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is "Monday Student Night" where pupils are admitted for a small fee and are able to see and hear outstanding musicians. Very quickly, Mondays became showcases for two of Gotham's premier music schools—The Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School of Music. Both institutions have top notch jazz ensembles and I have frequently taken my music students at Pace University down to the club where they have always had exciting jazz experiences.

On October 19 we were there to see the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble play a set featuring the hard bop music of Sonny Stitt and Booker Ervin. The theme of the set was studiously conceived (as were all the others we have seen and I have often reported on in my New York Beat column) and excellently executed. Not often the focus of such repertorial attention, both Stitt and Ervin are often overlooked figures of the halcyon days of hard bop.

The set began with an arrangement of Ervin's "Scoochie" by trombonist Jeffrey Miller which blazed through the room with impressive coherence. The septet ensemble neatly executed Ervin's melodic ideas and the improvisational solos were performed with striking authenticity. Pianist Micah Thomas - Drums and trombonist Miller excelled. Later selections— Stitt's "It's Hipper Than That" (arranged by Thomas), Ervin's "Uranus" (arranged by drummer Charles Ned Goold), Ervin's "Den Tex" (arranged by pianist Taber Gable) were delivered with a spirit of continuity which somehow transported the set back to the days when the hard boppers flourished. Tenor saxophonist Julian Lee and trumpeter Gabriel Medd were particularly successful in playing solos which captured many stylistic nuances of Stitt and Ervin. The ensemble's knowledge and delivery of these improvisational quirks from boppers of yore was exceptional. Guitarist Gabriel Schinder and bassist Russell Hall joined Goold's drumming to create a silver-tongued rhythming that made the room float.

The students that have come to New York to study and perform in the last decade have raised the city's jazz banners to new heights and Monday nights at Dizzy's is a great place to catch these youthful wonders.

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