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Having taken a short trip across town to Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase to record its last album in concert, the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble returns to the studio for Legacy, where it is joined (on the last four tracks) by an honored guest, big–band drummer extraordinaire Louie Bellson. Louie wrote (and presents drum clinics on) all of those tunes starting with the aptly named and coolly swinging “Brush Taps” and including “Boston Express,” “LOROELMA” and “Legacy.” Bellson, one of the most lyrical of big–band timekeepers, knows when to use the whip and when to let an ensemble run freely, which he does most of the time here. When Louie’s not around to lean on, Bob Lark’s talented young charges stand quite securely on their own, gliding easily through an impressive program of Jazz touchstones (Dizzy’s “A Night in Tunisia,” Duke Pearson’s “You Know I Care,” Nat Adderley’s “Old Country,” Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring”), the standards “Summertime” and “You’re My Everything,” and a splendid new composition by tenor saxophonist Bryan Murray, “Fragmented Dimensions,” on which he solos with trumpeter Jim Donovan. What is most striking about the DePaul ensemble, aside from a high level of technical proficiency, is the way in which soloists and ensemble alike appreciate the dynamics of Jazz and what makes it swing, which is a credit to Lark. As big bands go, this one’s a corker, as it shows from the outset on Slide Hampton’s dynamic arrangement of “Tunisia” (solos by Murray, trumpeter Ben Clark and drummer Dana Hall). Lark has a sizable corps of capable improvisers including Murray, Donovan, Clark, pianists Martin Fahmy (“You Know I Care”) and Chris Frumkin (“Brush Taps”), tenor Scott Burns (outstanding on “You Know I Care,” “Joy Spring,” “You’re My Everything”), trombonist Paul McDonald and alto Jon Irabagon (“Old Country”), trumpeter Steve Thomas and alto Jarrard Harris (“Summertime”), trombonist Jason Wicks and alto Josh Quinlan (“Boston Express”), Thomas (flugel) and guitarist Matt Pinizzotto (“LOROELMA”), tenor Chris Neal and trumpeter Nate Walcott (“Legacy”). It’s a shame there’s so little post–graduate demand in today’s marketplace for such earnest young scholars. But at least they’ve been given, thanks to recordings such as this, a chance to bequeath their own Legacy to those who follow.
Contact:Bob Lark, DePaul University School of Music, 804 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614–3296. Phone 800–4–depaul; web site, http://music.depaul.edu
Track Listing: A Night in Tunisia; You Know I Care; Fragmented Dimensions; Old Country; Joy Spring; Summertime; You