The McGill University Jazz Orchestra: Ostinatocious

Jack Bowers By

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While there may be some doubt that Ostinatocious is really a word, there's no doubt that the McGill University Jazz Orchestra from Montreal, Canada, is really a band. This is the MJO's eighth album, and to say it is up to its usual standards is the most earnest compliment one can bestow.

Ostinatocious spans the years 2002-04 with ensembles from each of those years taking part. The first five selections are performed by the 2004 orchestra, with four by the '03 group and two others from '02, including Bill Holman's mercurial "The Git, whose sprinting time is less than a minute. In each case, director Gordon Foote has his charges primed and ready, and as is always true of the MJO, there's nary a misstep, no matter how precarious the path—which doesn't mean the ensembles are more clinical than passionate, simply quite good at what they do.

If there's a perceptible difference between this and other recent endeavors by the MJO, it lies in the choice of material, which is on the whole more adventurous, starting with the title selection (one of four compositions and seven arrangements by former students or faculty) and including Bob Brookmeyer's lovely ballad "For Maria, Marianne Trudel's supernal "D'Hier à Aujourd'hui de St. Michel à Paris, Darcy Argue's frisky "Flux in a Box and Alexander Clements' opulent "Suite No. 4 Cycles (part 1). Trombonist Paul Tarussov is showcased on "Maria, as he is on Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner's "On a Clear Day. Tenor saxophonist Cameron Wallis the featured soloist on Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes, baritone Paul Nedzela on "I Left My Heart in San Francisco, drummer Jon McCaslin on "The Git. Pianist Jean-Marc Lafleur is outstanding on "St. Michel and "Flux. Others who raise their amicable voices include pianists Jon Day and John Roney, guitarists Steve Johnston and Jim Head, alto Colin Power, tenor Jon Stewart, trumpeter Steve McKnight, trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier and drummer J.D. Katz.

As I've asserted before (and am held to account in the liner notes), "no one could single [the McGill Jazz Orchestra] out as anything other than a professional working band. Ostinatocious certainly does nothing to alter that opinion. Among college-level ensembles, the MJO remains at the head of the class.

Track Listing: Malinkes Dance; On a Clear Day; Tiptoe; Ostinatocious; For Maria; DHier Aujourdhui de St. Michel Paris; Infant Eyes; Flux in a Box; Suite No. 4 Cycles (part 1); I Left My Heart in San Francisco; The Git (73:15).

Personnel: Gordon Foote, director. 2001-2002 -- Samuel Blais, Colin Power, Jonathan Stewart, Annie Dominique, Karl Valiaho, reeds; Christian Morissette, Oscar Martinez, Jon Mossing, Blair McNeillie, Nicolas Rossi, trumpet; Bruce Pepper, Barb Hamilton, Jean-Nicolas Trottier, Nicolas Therrien, Suzie Nadeau, trombone; John Roney, piano; Christopher Cargnello, guitar; Genevieve Audet, vibes; Karine Chapdelaine, bass; Jon McCaslin, drums. 2002-2003 -- Blais, Power, Stewart, Cam Wallis, Paul Nedzela, reeds; Morissette, Steve McKnight, David Robitaille, J.D. Marchand, trumpet; Trottier, Nadeau, Jim Wilson, Paul Tarussov, trombone; Jean-Marc Lafleur, piano; Jim Head, guitar; Aryeh Kobrinsky, bass; J.D. Katz, drums. 2003-2004 -- Blais, Power, Stewart, Nedzela, Evan Smith, reeds; Morissette, McKnight, Robitaille, Roselyne Girouard, Mark DAngelo, trumpet; Tarussov, Nicolas Therrien, Jason Kyle, Hugh Topham, Ted Huck, trombone; Jon Day, piano; Steve Johnston, guitar; Kobrinsky, bass; Katz, drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: FMJ Records | Style: Big Band


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