Here are two recent studio recordings by the well-disciplined University of Missouri Concert Jazz Band under director Arthur White, the first (Open Window) from 2014, the second (Flying Colors) from 2016. Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene and trumpeter Sean Jones are special guests on Window, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and trumpeter Randy Brecker on Colors.
White composed and arranged Window's tricky opener, "Great Plains," which the ensemble navigates with ease, as it does every other number. Band members wrote three more: bassist Sam Copeland "Open Window," trombonist Matt Schmitz the funky "Northwest Plaza," guitarist Paul Oliviera the sunny "Samba do Vento" (on which he solos with the always-intriguing Greene). Greene supports the ensemble's capable vocalist, Taryn Doty, on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," while Jones does the same on Nat Cole's mid-40s hit, "Frim Fram Sauce." White, meanwhile, solos on soprano sax on "Great Plains," tenor on Rick Margitza's ardent "Widow's Walk" (neatly arranged by Dan Gailey).
Greene and Jones are out front again (as is Copeland's arco bass) on John Clayton's frolicsome "Last Stop" (also the last stop on the album), Jones on "Great Plains," "Northwest Plaza" and the lovely Johnny Burke / Jimmy van Heusen standard "It Could Happen to You" (smartly introduced by Oliviera and pianist Lily Tan and encompassing likeable solos as well by tenor Michael Neu and trombonist Andrew Meyer). Neu arranged that one, as he did "Frim Fram Sauce." Trombonist Andrew Brown arranged "Berkeley Square."
If Open Window is a splendid example of blue chip college-level big-band jazz enhanced by renowned guest artists (as it surely is), the same can be said for Flying Colors, a hard-swinging session on which members of the band again play prominent roles as composers, arrangers and soloists. This time around, White wrote two charming numbers ("Sweet Baby Sam," "Megan's Dance") while Neu contributed the easygoing "Coalescence," trombonist Ryan Adamsons "Lakewood and Wayne" and "Ballad of Daniella IV" (more blues than ballad), pianist Ben Colagiovanni the effervescent "Closing Time." Mainieri wrote the album's titular number and closing theme, to which he and White (on tenor) append nimble solos. Rounding out the program are Debora Gurgel's carefree "Das Americas" and Sam Rivers' graceful "Beatrice."
The band's other guest, the celebrated trumpeter Brecker, is his usual eloquent self on "Sweet Baby Sam," "Daniella" and "Lakewood and Wayne." The ensemble's able soloists include Neu, Oliveira, Copeland, Meyer, Colagiovanni, altos Joseph Rulli and Sam Riley, tenor Tara McPherson, trumpeters Adamsons, Meredith Hammer and Austin Walker, and drummers Kyle Bauche and Eric Grumke (who take turns supervising the band's stalwart rhythm section). In sum, a pair of impressive albums that serve to reinforce the University of Missouri's well-deserved reputation for excellence under White's able direction.
Track Listing: Open Window -- Great Plains; Open Window; Frim Fram Sauce; Widow’s Walk; It Could Happen to You; Northwest Plaza; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; Samba do Vento; Last Stop. Flying Colors -- Sweet Baby Sam; Lakewood and Wayne; Das Americas; Coalescence; Closing Time; Ballad of Daniella IV; Beatrice; Megan’s Dance; Flying Colors.
Personnel: Open Window —Arthur White, director, soprano sax (1), tenor sax (4); Kelcey Knoernschild: trumpet; Craig Ingram: trumpet; Meredith Hammer: trumpet; Austin Walker: trumpet; Joseph Rulli: alto sax; Nassim Benchaabane: alto sax; Michael Neu: tenor sax; Ryan Henigman: tenor sax; Kyle Nelson: baritone sax; Andrew Brown: trombone; Matt Schmitz: trombone; Andrew Meyer: trombone; Sam Reed: trombone; Paulo Oliveira: guitar; Lily Tan: piano; Ben Gervais: vibraphone; Sam Copeland: bass; Ryan Freeman: drums; Taryn Doty: vocals (3, 7). Special guests – Jimmy Greene: tenor sax (1, 2, 7, 8, 9); Sean Jones: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 6, 9). Flying Colors —Arthur White, director, saxophone solos (3, 9); Brady Schach: trumpet; Jason Mathews: trumpet; Ryan Adamson: trumpet; Meredith Hammer: trumpet; Austin Walker: trumpet; Joseph Rulli: alto sax; Sam Riley: alto sax; Michael Neu: tenor sax; Tara McPherson: tenor sax; Ben Harting: baritone sax; Caleb Roman: trombone; Andrew Meyer: trombone; Nick Draper: trombone; Tyler Bevill: trombone; Paolo Oliveira: guitar; Ben Colagiovanni: piano; Daniel Edwards: vibraphone; Sam Copeland: bass; Kyle Bauche: drums (1, 6, 8); Eric Grumke: drums (4, 7, 9). Special guests – Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 2, 6); Mike Mainieri: vibraphone (9).
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