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The Liberace Jazztet: On the Verge

Jack Bowers By

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The Liberace Jazztet, based at Northern Illinois University, is so named because it was formed in 2001 as a result of a grant from the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts. The Jazztet is comprised of junior, senior and graduate students at the NIU School of Music who are designated "Liberace Scholars. When this album was recorded in December '02, the members of the group were trumpeter Danny Campbell, tenor saxophonist Doug Stone, guitarist Josh Suhrheinrich, bassist Alex Austin and drummer Marcus Evans.

The young scholars must be encouraged to write as well as play, as all but one of the ten selections on On the Verge—the Victor Scherzinger/Johnny Mercer standard "I Remember You —were composed by members of the Jazztet: three by Stone, two by Austin and Suhrheinrich, one each by Evans and Campbell. The overall ambiance calls to mind a rather laid-back incarnation of the Blue Note/Prestige era of earnest boppers—or perhaps Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, even though Evans is a far less imperious drummer than Blakey. While Campbell and Stone form a splendid front line, I was most impressed with the rhythm section, which provides unflagging support without overplaying its hand. Evans is especially discreet, bassist Austin cool and steady, while guitarist Suhrheinrich, an excellent soloist and accompanist, averts the need for a piano.

The music is well-written and capably performed, and in a blindfold test these young musicians might easily be identified as seasoned professionals. It's clearly evident that their rehearsals—several each week, guided by NIU's top-notch jazz faculty—have paid handsome dividends, as On the Verge is smooth and charming from start to finish.

Track Listing: I Remember You; Tippin

Personnel: Doug Stone: tenor saxophone; Danny Campbell: trumpet; Josh Suhrheinrich: guitar; Alex Austin: bass; Marcus Evans: drums.

Title: On the Verge | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: NIUJE

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