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Album Review

UNT One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2021

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UNT One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2021
The University of North Texas' flagship ensemble, the One O'Clock Lab Band, has been producing annual recordings for almost half a century. It has also given rise to a veritable assembly line of world-class jazz musicians, more of whom are no doubt coming of age while honing their chops on the One O'Clock's latest album, Lab 2021.

Even before the One O'Clock Band was formed in 1959, UNT had nourished such outstanding musicians as guitarists Herb Ellis and Jack Petersen, saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre, bassist Harry Babasin and composer/trombonist Gene Roland, among others. Since then, the list of alumni reads like a who's who of jazz luminaries. To name only a few: Billy Harper, Bob Belden, Marvin Stamm, Jim Snidero, Dee Barton, Lou Marini, Ed Soph, Gregg Bissonette, Ashley Alexander, Galen Jeter, Rob Parton, Conrad Herwig, Lyle Mays, Clay Jenkins, Barry Ries , Lou Fischer, James Chirillo, Frank Basile, Glenn Kostur, Scott Englebright, Tyler Kuebler, Michael Waldrop, Luis Hernandez, Drew Zaremba.

That's not a complete list, but it should serve to summarize the band's impressive heritage. And while there's no way to know which members of the One O'Clock's present iteration may go on to forge similarly remarkable careers, the guess here is that the number will be more than one, as Lab '21 is every inch as sharp and inspired as its renowned predecessors, an observation that is borne out time and again on this superlative album. In other words, college-level ensembles simply don't get much better than this. And as if the unerring performance weren't enough, four of the album's ten engaging numbers were written by members of the band.

That includes the last two, saxophonist Chris Bauer's colorful, high-flying "Above the Clouds" and trumpeter Austin Ford's frolicsome "Cool Kids," which are among the session's highlights, as is Bauer's irrepressible "Jolly Wallop." The band has a vocalist, Gabi Date, and she sings on her own composition, "Phases" (arranged by Bauer). The tune is rhythmically strong, and Date has a pleasant voice; as for the lyric, the supposition is that it makes perfect sense to her. The album opens with Ford's sunny arrangement of the standard "It's Only a Paper Moon," introducing the first two of the band's phalanx of proficient soloists, pianist Yeeun Kim and trombonist Jackson Churchill. Michael Clement's picturesque "Evading Karmacities" is next, enfolding sharp solos by tenor Andrew Larsen and guitarist Alex Frondelli. Frondelli is heard again with flugel Aaron Stone on the translucent "Phases," which precedes Michael Abene's high- energy "Runaround" (Ford, trumpet; Daniel Henson, tenor) and Joe Zawinul's tasteful ballad, "A Remark You Made" (Ian Calhoun, bass trombone; Jonathan Shier, flugelhorn; Michael Baylock, bass).

"Jolly Wallop" delivers on that promise, prancing merrily forward on the wings of ardent solos by Frondelli and alto Bauer, before the tempo slows for Rich DeRosa's chorale-like "Wisdom" (Jack Courtright, trombone; Gus Arnold, alto) whose lively midsection gives brass and reeds a brisk workout. Ariel Glassman's meditative "One of These Things (Doesn't Belong)," using Date's wordless vocal to good effect, precedes "Above the Clouds" (Frondelli, guitar; Joseph Trahan, baritone sax) and "Cool Kids" (Arnold, alto sax; Trenton Barnes, trombone; William Ward, mind-blowing scream trumpet). The One O'Clock Lab Band continues to flourish under Alan Baylock's astute direction, and Lab 2021 proves once again that when it comes to high-quality undergraduate jazz ensembles, UNT and its peerless Lab Bands remain the gold standard.

Track Listing

It’s Only a Paper Moon; Evading Karmacities; Phases; Runaround; A Remark You Made; Jolly Wallop; Wisdom; One of These Things (Doesn’t Belong); Above the Clouds; Cool Kids.

Personnel

Alan Baylock: composer/conductor; William Ward: trumpet; Aaron Stone: trumpet; Jonathan Shier: trumpet; Seth Blitstein: trumpet; Austin Ford: trumpet; Gus Arnold: saxophone, alto; Chris Bauer: harmonica; Daniel Henson: saxophone, tenor; Andrew Larsen: saxophone, tenor; Joseph Trahan: saxophone, baritone; Trenton Barnes: trombone; Jack Courtright: trombone; Jackson Churchill: trombone; Jack Fetting: trombone, bass; Ian Calhoun: trombone, bass; Alex Frondelli: guitar; Yeeun Kim: piano; Michael Baylock: bass; Joshua Calef: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Gabi Date: vocals.

Album information

Title: Lab 2021 | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Unt Jazz

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