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While this isn't the first album by the Drake University Jazz Ensemble (there have been at least two others), it is the first to be recorded at "home in the university's jazz-linked Mainstay building, hence the album's title. The album was actually taped during a few late-night sessions in May '04 at the Mainstay, which is being converted into a state-of-the-art recording studio. The results, says director Andrew Classen, "exceed[ed] all of our expectations.
This despite the fact that Classen cuts his students no slack, challenging them with elaborate charts by Frank Mantooth, Bill Stapleton, Mike Abene, Maria Schneider, Sy Johnson, Matt Catingub, Bob Curnow, Paul Lopez and himself, and noting with satisfaction that keeping them up late hasn't lessened their ardor or focus.
The album opens with Mantooth's clever arrangement of "That Old Black Magic and Stapleton's version of the gentle ballad "Come Rain or Come Shine, both of which feature trumpeter Jason Klobnak, as does Curnow's arrangement of Pat Metheny's sensuous "Minuano. In fact, Klobnak is a soloist on seven of the ten tracks. Classen's Bob Brookmeyer-inspired "Return to Nowhere, showcasing Klobnak and soprano Nick Borror, is followed by Abene's slightly off-center treatment of Sonny Rollins' perky "Airegin, Schneider's spectral "Night Watchman and Johnson's lively arrangement of Charles Mingus's evocative "Moanin'. Lopez wrote the Latin charmer "Floreando, which spotlights alto Tony Wadle and pianist Mike Hanson. Catingub's impish "Blues and the Abscessed Tooth (solos by Hanson and drummer Mark Grimm) precedes "Minuano and the 29-second finale, Walter Murphy's personable "Family Guy.
As I wrote in reviewing its previous album, Rush Hour, the "rapidly maturing Drake unit is clearly "one of the country's up-and-coming college-level jazz ensembles. Not yet on a par with North Texas, McGill or other blue-chip programs but definitely moving in the right direction under Classen's able guidance. Latenight presents an effective overview of its prowess, one that is well worth noting.
Track Listing: That Old Black Magic; Come Rain or Come Shine; Return to Nowhere; Airegin; Night Watchman; Moaniní; Floreando; Blues and the Abscessed Tooth; Minuano; Family Guy (56:59).
Personnel: Andrew Classen, director; Jason Klobnak, Jason Crafton, Adam Jaspersen (1, 2), Bryan Parsons (1-3), Adam Kreis (1, 2), David Baird (4-10), trumpet, flugelhorn; David Kreil (8), trumpet; Nick Borror (1-3), Tony Wadle, alto, soprano sax; David Bohl (4-10), alto, soprano sax, flute; Lindsay Brust (1-3), tenor sax, flute; Rachel Lueck (1-3), tenor sax, oboe; Eric Neeley, Matt Gunsaulus (4-10), tenor, soprano sax; Erin Keen, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Justin Williams, Charles Steinkraus (1-3), Brad Cook (4-10), Megan Stine (1-3), Alan Cox, trombone; Tony Corson, bass trombone; Michael Hanson, piano; Josh Gorman (4-10), guitar; Alex Hammond (1-3, 6, 7, 9, 10), acoustic, electric bass; John Gran (4, 5, 8), electric bass; Mark Grimm (1-2, 4-10), Eric Biase (3), drums.