Billed as a session of "swinging jazz from the heartland, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Professor Paul Haar, presents its first album with Minimal Effort and maximum polish. The ensemble is essentially a seventeen-piece college orchestra performing with the same poise and finesse one expects of a professional band.
The repertoire contains seven excellent big band charts presumably arranged by Haar, who produced the project. The music starts off with a fusion-driven number in trombonist Steve Wiest's "Gotham City, featuring solos from guitarist Jared Bader and drummer David Hall. Pianist Nelson Neves leads off on Claire Fischer's "The Duke, with divine solo spots from Tommy van den Berg on the trombone and trumpeter Paul Krueger.
The band really takes off on Jim McNeely's nine-minute score "Extra Credit, showcasing a slew of solo performances. Jack Cooper's arrangement of "Moonlight Serenade takes one back to the swinging big band era of Glenn Miller with a contemporary interpretation.
Eric Richards' "Hidden Agenda is one of the most outstanding tunes, full of fire and brassy orchestrations diced with a superb performance from Elizabeth Love on soprano. The program ends with the howling brass of "Martha Stewart Ain't Got Nothin' On My Baby.
Kudos for Haar and his UNL Jazz ensemble for delivering a truly exciting big band album that sets high standards and meets expectations. Obviously this is one university orchestra that far exceeds the obligation to meet the basic "minimal effort, when it comes to music.
Track Listing: Gotham City; The Duke; Extra Credit; Moonlight Serenade; Hidden Agenda; Minimal Effort; Martha Stewart Ain't Got Nothin' On My Baby.
Personnel: Paul Haar: director; Elizabeth Love: alto sax; Marty Huntimer: alto sax; Christopher Barrick: tenor sax; Zak Pischnotte: tenor sax; Tom Speers: baritone sax; Jeff Richmond: trumpet; Brenda McGlynn: trumpet; Tom Salistean: trumpet; Paul Krueger: trumpet; Andrew Binkard trombone; Tommy van den Berg: trombone; Kevin Haines: trombone; Pual Ahlemeyer: trombone; Nelson Neves: piano; Jared Bader: guitar; David Hall: drums; Danny Firestone: bass.