Another year, another excellent recording from the University of North Texas' flagship ensemble, the One O'Clock Lab Band, which has been producing similarly impressive albums for more than four decades. Unlike many of its predecessors, Lab 2018 has a subtitle, "The Rhythm of the Road," a nod to the band's twenty-eight concerts in a dozen cities and four states in the year leading up to the recording sessions in May 2018. As usual, the music and musicianship are beyond reproach; and as usual, it's hard to comprehend that the members of the band are barely out of their teens (everyone, that is, except trumpeter Gregory Newman who was all of nineteen years old when the album was recorded).
Director Alan Baylock, who has been at the One O'Clock's helm for more than three years now, is a seasoned big-band arranger (U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note) who knows how to assemble a program designed to wrest the most mileage possible from a large ensemble. "Rhythm of the Road" consists of half a dozen pleasing original compositions (two by tenor saxophonist Brandon Moore, one each by Baylock and UNT faculty member Rich DeRosa), Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" (capably if not memorably sung by Marion Powers), Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" and John Coltrane's introspective "After the Rain." Moore wrote the shuffling title song and irrepressible "Blues for Kazu," DeRosa the challenging, time-shifting "Birds of a Feather . . .," Baylock the flag-waving "Without a Doubt." Moore arranged "After the Rain" and Chris Potter's canorous "Train," trombonist Brian Woodbury "Bachianas Brasileiras," drummer John Sturino the aggressive, bop-infused opener, Victor Lewis' "Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To."
As one would expect, the One O'Clock's soloists are sharp and resourceful, starting with trumpeter Newman and tenor saxophonist Will Nathman on "Hey, It's Me." Woodbury, Sturino and alto Kyle Bellaire are out front on "Rhythm of the Road," Moore and guitarist Daniel Pinilla on "Train," virtuosic trumpeter Kazunori Tanaka (for whom the song was named) and bassist Raul Reyes on "Blues for Kazu." Others accorded blowing space are pianist Paul Lees ("Lovesome Thing," "Birds"), alto Sam Cousineau and trombonist Brett Lamel ("Without a Doubt"), Reyes and trombonist D.J. Rice ("Bachianas Brasileiras"), Newman (flugel) and flutist Brendon Wilkins ("After the Rain").
Since its formation more than seventy years ago, UNT's One O'Clock Lab Band has resided at the summit of intercollegiate jazz ensembles. Rhythm of the Road offers yet another compelling reason why that remains true.
Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To; The Rhythm of the Road; Train; Blues for Kazu; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; “Birds of a Feather . . .”; Without a Doubt; Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5; After the Rain.
Alan Baylock: director; Nick Owsik: trumpet; Adam Horne: trumpet; Huang-Hsiang Chang: trumpet; Kazunori Tanaka: trumpet; Gregory Newman: trumpet; Kyle Bellaire: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Sam Cousineau: alto sax, clarinet; Brandon Moore: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Will Nathman: tenor sax, clarinet; Brendon Wilkins: baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute; Brian Woodbury: trombone; D.J. Rice: trombone; Brett Lamel: trombone; Tommy Barttels: bass trombone; Kenny Davis: bass trombone; Daniel Pinilla: guitar; Paul Lees: piano, keyboard; Raul Reyes: bass; John Sturino: drums, percussion; Marion Powers: voice.