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The Mt. Hood Jazz Band is best described as an anomalya community college ensemble that doesn't play like one. Director Susie Jones must be given at least partial credit for that. I'd say "You're doin' a heckuva job, Susie, but there's no telling where that could lead.
Seriously, these young musiciansmost of them home-grown in Oregonare in tip-top form on the school's third impressive album in roughly the last two years, all under Jones' astute direction. Eight selections are performed by the eighteen-member Jazz Band, two by the six-piece Winter "Green Combo. Both of those numbers, "Isn't It Prime? and "Sonho, were written by the sextet's standout pianist, Andrew Washburn, who does double duty with the larger ensemble (and is tastefully featured on Sammy Nestico's ambling "88 Basie Street ).
Washburn, alto Dave Coyle and baritone Billy Gaechter are the soloists on the dynamic opener, Bob Washut's "Basso Urnesto (nicely introduced by bassist Dave Speranza), guitarist Michael Backus and tenor Sam Solano on Chuck Tumlinson's ingenious "Stellar (by Starlight), Backus and tenor Charles Holton on Gene Thorne's laid-back "Li'l James, whose resemblance to Neal Hefti's classic "Li'l Darlin' has to be more than coincidental. Bob Mintzer wrote the aptly named "Gently, on which trumpeter Wes Luttrell (muted and open) and soprano Gideon Hawkins sparkle, Matt Harris the fast-moving, bop-centered "MAS Production (no-nonsense commentary courtesy of Washburn, Backus and Speranza).
Solano's cogent tenor is center stage on "My Foolish Heart, neatly arranged by Chuck Owen, and for a change of pace, an uncredited bandoneonist enhances Astor Piazzolla's swaying "Libertango, on which Solano and Coyle are the soloists. They form an integral part of the small combo, as do Washburn, Backus, Speranza and drummer Evan Guilford. The larger ensemble's alternating drummers, Brian Sprague and Sam Henry, are splendid too, and with Washburn, Backus and Speranza comprise a potent rhythm section.
As noted, another topnotch enterprise by the MHCC ensemble, whose earlier albums, I'm New Here... and Super Blue, are also first-rate. And as they're all on Sea Breeze, they shouldn't be hard to find.
Track Listing: Basso Urnesto; Stellar; Liíl James; Gently; 88 Basie Street; Sonho; MAS Production; My Foolish Heart; Libertango; Isnít It Prime? (66:52).
Personnel: Susie Jones: director. Jazz Band: Wes Luttrell, Eli Fisher, Dustin Williams, Michael Kurtz,
Sergey Bogza: trumpet; Dave Coyle: alto sax, flute, clarinet; Gideon Hawkins: alto sax,
clarinet; Sam Solano: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Charles Holton: tenor sax, clarinet; Billy
Gaechter: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Josh Bennett, Matt Hutson, Chris Traylor, Alex Cook:
trombone; Andrew Washburn: piano; Michael Backus: guitar; Dave Speranza: bass; Brian
Sprague, Sam Henry: drums, percussion. Winter ďGreenĒ Combo: Coyle: alto sax; Solano:
tenor sax; Washburn: piano; Backus: guitar; Speranza: bass; Evan Guilford: drums.