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Saying a piranha is combative is somewhat like observing that the late Vince Lombardi was rather fond of winning. The newest release by Fullerton College’s Jazz Ensemble 1 and Alternative Jazz Lab Ensemble is exceedingly well–named, as both groups are ready to rumble from the outset and breathe fire throughout a galvanizing session comprised entirely of original compositions. The frame of reference is mainly funk / Latin and emphatically upbeat, and within those parameters the scrappy Fullerton ensembles are solidly in the groove and smokin’. The fourteen–number program is evenly divided between Jazz Ensemble 1 and the smaller (ten–member) but no less pugnacious Alternative Jazz Lab Ensemble, also known as the Cabana Boys. Some good old–fashioned bop does creep into the Cabana Boys’ repertoire by way of Monk Montgomery’s fleet–footed “Budini” (featuring guitarist Eugene Huang), but this is the exception rather than the rule. As for Jazz Ensemble 1, it unwinds only on Dave Caffey’s tranquil ballad, “Final Dance,” on which Vince Hizon’s caustic alto is front and center. Hizon moves to tenor to divide solo time with Huang on the only other more–or–less straight-ahead vehicle, Walter Davis Jr.’s “Uranus,” also performed by the Cabana Boys. Huang’s “Prelude” then leads into the Jazz Ensemble’s show–stopping finale, Dale Devoe’s impassioned flamenco, “Piranha” (arranged by director Greg Woll). The larger ensemble also performs Dan Radlauer’s “Bar Talk,” Matt Catingub’s fiery “Bop Brothers’ Latin Vacation” (with Hizon, on alto, and tenor Billy Frenzel as the nomadic siblings), Jim Linahon’s free–floating “L.A. Groove” (anchored by Huang’s guitar) and Les Hooper’s rhythmically strong “Lemon Street Rag” (with solos by Frenzel, trombonist Shaunte Palmer and alto Fernando Donoso). The Cabana Boys are heard on Daniel Barry’s “Baby Wheezer,” Chuck Archard’s “From There to Here” and “Practice on Your Own Time” and Matt Harris’ “Long Time Comin’” (with a brief “Prelude” by bassist Jim Hawley). The hour–plus playing time is generous, the sound quality well above average. A convincing statement from one of the West Coast’s impressive undergraduate Jazz Studies programs.
Track listing: Bar Talk; Bop Brothers’ Latin Vacation; Baby Weezer; L.A. Groove; From There to Here; Prelude (To Long Time Comin’); Long Time Comin’; Lemon Street Rag; Budini; Final Dance; Practice on Your Own Time; Uranus; Prelude (To Piranha); Piranha (62:06).