Among the pleasures I already miss since moving last October to North Carolina after 20 years in Illinois are the annual Jazz festivals at New Trier High School, which was less than a 20–minute drive up the road from our home in Wilmette. I looked forward to the February get–togethers, at which I heard the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Rob Parton, the Woody Herman, Count Basie and Frank Mantooth orchestras, and Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. This year’s guest was another of my favorites, DIVA (No Man’s Band), some of whose members perform on this disc by the 1997–98 NTHS Jazz ensembles. The first ten selections are performed by Ensemble 1 under director Jim Warrick, with one apiece by the Freshman Ensemble (“The Flintstones Theme”), Concert Ensemble (“Vertigo”) and Lab Jazz Ensemble (“Spain”). From DIVA, leader/drummer Sherrie Maricle sits in (and lights a fire) on Bob Florence’s “Willowcrest,” while Liesl Whitaker plays lead trumpet and soprano saxophonist Laura Dreyer solos on guest pianist Ellen Rowe’s playful composition, “The Doomsday Machine Meets Mr. Gelato.” As we’ve written before (see the review of NTHS’ 1996–97 album, Storm Front), Warrick has done a creditable job shaping the ensemble as a whole — and may at last have found the convincing solo voice he needs in pianist Sam Bar–Sheshet who is heard on three Florence charts, “Willowcrest,” “Flight of Fancy” and “Be Bop Charlie,” and the Broadway show–stopper, “Send in the Clowns” (in Dave Barduhn’s lush arrangement for the Stan Kenton orchestra). Ensemble 1 also performs Pat Metheny’s “Have You Heard,” Michael Pagan’s “Superior Attitude,” Sammy Nestico’s arrangement of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a funky version of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” (featuring guitarists Hartley–Leonard, Lieberman and Welcome) and “If the Shew Fits,” written by Frank Mantooth for trumpeter Bobby Shew with Nick Drozdoff slipping into Bobby’s shoes. A tasteful glimpse of one of the country’s most widely commended high school Jazz ensembles.
Track listing: Flight of Fancy; Have You Heard; Willowcrest; Superior Attitude; Be Bop Charlie; Send in the Clowns; The Doomsday Machine Meets Mr. Gelato; Fanfare for the Common Man; Sweet Georgia Brown; If the Shew Fits; The Flintstones Theme; Vertigo; Spain (73:18).